Pakistan’s Imran Khan, Turkish President Erdogan talk

The two leaders at an event. Photo (Ankara Embassy)

Prime Minister Imran Khan receives a call from the President of Turkey Erdogan

Islamabad, Pakistan — Prime Minister Imran Khan received a telephone call from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The two leaders exchanged felicitations on the advent of the holy month of Ramzan.

The two leaders discussed issues of mutual interest including further strengthening of bilateral relations in all areas.

In the regional context, the Prime Minister stressed the importance of a negotiated political settlement of the conflict in Afghanistan ahead of the recently announced planned U.S. withdrawal. The Prime Minister highlighted that Pakistan had fully supported and facilitated the U.S.-Taliban Peace Agreement and the subsequent initiation of Intra-Afghan Negotiations.

The Prime Minister stressed that the Intra-Afghan Negotiations provided a historic opportunity that must be seized by the Afghan leadership to achieve an inclusive, broad-based, and comprehensive political settlement. Appreciating Turkey’s role, the Prime Minister added that Pakistan would continue to extend all possible support to the efforts for a political solution for durable peace and stability in Afghanistan.

It was agreed that the momentum of high-level exchanges would be continued to transform bilateral relations into strategic economic partnerships.

The two leaders discuss the ongoing peace process, with Imran Khan reaffirming Islamabad’s promise to a negotiated political settlement.

“In the regional context, Prime Minister [Khan] stressed the importance of a negotiated political settlement of the conflict in Afghanistan ahead of recently announced planned US [troop] withdrawal,” the statement said.

“The Prime Minister highlighted that Pakistan had fully supported and facilitated the US-Taliban Peace Agreement and the subsequent initiation of Intra-Afghan Negotiations.”

Khan said the intra-Afghan peace conversations had provided a “historic opportunity … to achieve an inclusive, broad-based and extensive political settlement”.

The Turkish government did not promptly release a statement on the conversation.

Turkey will host a 10-day Afghan peace summit from April 24, with representatives of the Afghan government, United States, United Nations, Qatar, and others taking part.

The Taliban has declined to participate in talks. It issued a statement on Tuesday saying it would not engage in any further talks “until all foreign forces completely withdraw from our homeland”.

US Top Envoy visits Kabul

PM Khan’s statement comes as US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken arrived in Kabul on Thursday to brief officials on US President Joe Biden’s plan to withdraw US troops completely from Afghanistan by September 11.

Blinken met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, its peace talks chief Abdullah Abdullah and senior US officials on Thursday, saying his visit was meant to illustrate his country’s “ongoing commitment” to Afghanistan.

“The partnership is changing, but the partnership is enduring,” he said.

On Wednesday, US President Biden announced that his country would withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the longest war in US history.

The new date adds more than three months to the May deadline agreed between the US and the Taliban in February 2020.

The Taliban, which has been resuming its war against the Afghan state alongside stalled peace talks in the Qatari capital, Doha, reacted to the announcement by saying that if troops did not leave by the earlier agreed date, “problems will certainly be compounded”.

Pakistan played a crucial role in helping the first straight peace talks between the US and the Taliban and later between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

“In our view, it is important that the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan coincides with the progress in the peace process,” said a Pakistani foreign ministry statement in response to Biden’s troop withdrawal plan.

“We hope that the forthcoming meeting of Afghan leadership in Turkey would be an important opportunity for Afghans to make progress towards a negotiated political settlement.”

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