US, Pakistani top diplomats talks Afghan cooperation
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi discussed on Jan. 17 a series of issues, including the importance of bilateral cooperation in bringing a long-elusive peace to Afghanistan.
The leaders also addressed Iran, and increased economic relations, State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a brief statement following their meeting.
Pompeo's meeting with Qureshi comes amid reports that the Afghan Taliban have presented the U.S. with a proposal that would reduce hostilities for a number of days to allow peace talks to resume.
Pakistani and Taliban negotiators are also meeting in Doha, Qatar for informal talks, according to reports.
On Jan. 16, Qureshi also met with the leadership of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee at Capitol Hill, including Senators James Risch, Bob Menendez, Mitt Romney and Chris Murphy.
They discussed the U.S.-Pakistan bilateral relationship, the situation in South Asia, the Afghan peace process and recent developments in the Middle East.
During the talks, Qureshi briefed the U.S. lawmakers on India's lockdown in occupied Jammu and Kashmir and its implications for regional security.
Meanwhile, the Afghan government on Saturday pushed the Taliban to agree upon a complete cease-fire as way forward for peace talks instead of the proposed “reduction in violence” reportedly offered by the insurgents.
Presidential spokesman Sediq Sediqqi told a press conference in Kabul that the Afghan people and the government reject the proposed “reduction in violence” by the Taliban as an “ambiguous term with no legal or military parameters.”
“Any suggestion the Taliban have shared with the U.S. must include cease-fire as it is the demand of our people,” he said, referring to the tricky on-and-off peace parley in the Qatari capital, Doha.
It came on the heel of a proposed Taliban offer from its leadership in Pakistan for a limited and conditional “reduction in violence” in Afghanistan in return for inking of the draft peace deal with the U.S.
Suhail Shaheen, the Taliban's Qatar office spokesman, tweeted on Friday that Mullah Baradar Akhund, the group's deputy head, met with the U.S.
negotiating team led by U.S. special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad “to discuss the signing of the agreement and the related ceremonies.”
According to the sources privy to the developments, the Taliban shared with the U.S. a strategy of reduction in violence along the main highways in
Afghanistan, but came short of accepting a comprehensive cease-fire demanded by the Kabul government.
“What does reduction in violence mean, killing five innocent civilians instead of ten,” Sediqqi questioned.
He added that during a recent trip to Afghanistan, U.S. President Donald Trump agreed with his Afghan counterpart, Ashraf Ghani, that cease-fire remains the precondition for direct peace talks to commence.
In September last year, after a marathon round of negotiations with the Taliban, Trump cancelled a proposed peace deal with the insurgents in final
moments over killing of a U.S. soldier in Kabul.