Pakistan, US talks dominated by Afghan issue

Afghanistan dominated the separate meetings Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi held with United States National Security Advisor (NSA) John Bolton and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo in Washington on Tuesday.

Qureshi is visiting Washington on Pompeo's invitation, who had visited Islamabad earlier last month to hold talks with the newly elected government.

The first set of talks on Tuesday began at the White House where the foreign minister met NSA Bolton for 40 minutes before heading to the State Department for another meeting with his American counterpart, the US Secretary of State. The second meeting lasted 40 minutes as well and was also attended by Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua and Ambassador Ali Jehangir Siddiqui.

Pakistan reiterated its commitment to support an Afghan-led peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan in both meetings. According to statements released by the Pakistan embassy in the US, the country's relationship with its nuclear-armed rival India was also discussed in this context.

While the media expected a joint statement, both sides released separate statements, explaining how far this attempt to “reset” had gone. The cautious silence on both sides, however, indicated that the talks were not as successful as expected.

The statement about Qureshi's meeting with Bolton focused almost entirely on explaining Pakistan’s position on various issues and did not say much about what Bolton or his team said in the meeting.

“During the meeting, Mr Qureshi and Mr Bolton discussed Pakistan-US relations and the regional situation in South Asia,” the statement read.

According to the statement, Qureshi repeated Pakistan's stance that the Afghanistan issue had no military solution and insisted that peace in the neighbouring country was vital for stability in the region. He also highlighted Pakistan's efforts to promote progress in Afghanistan by initiating the Afghanistan Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity.

However, the foreign minister regretted that Prime Minister Imran Khan's efforts for peace in the region were not reciprocated by India, which recently cancelled a meeting that was to be held between Qureshi and Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj on the sidelines of the 73rd United Nations General Assembly session that was held last week in New York.

He also pointed to the human rights violations carried out against Kashmiris by the Indian army in held Kashmir and the routine ceasefire violations by the Indian Border Security Forces along the Line of Control and Working Boundary. Yet, Qureshi said that Pakistan wanted to hold a comprehensive dialogue with India to reach a peaceful solution to resolve the conflicts between the two countries.

The focus remained on the situation in Afghanistan during his meeting with Pompeo as well. Both officials noted that Pakistan and the US shared a common desire for peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region at large.

They also stressed the need to revive ties between the two countries, which have been strained for the past few years.



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