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US shoring up support for Geneva conference on Afghanistan

WASHINGTON (Web Desk) The upcoming Geneva Conference on Afghanistan and joint efforts to advance the Afghan peace process were the two key items discussed during this week’s US-Pakistan talks in Islamabad, said an official US statement released on Wednesday.

US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells visited Islamabad on Nov 6-7 to “review key items on our bilateral agenda, including the upcoming Geneva Conference on Afghanistan and joint efforts to advance the Afghan peace process”, the statement added.

The Geneva Ministerial Conference on Afghanistan will be held in the Swiss city on Nov 27 and 28 to underline international support for Kabul’s efforts to peacefully end the Afghan conflict. While the United States is playing a key role in arranging this conference, Pakistan also supports the move and is likely to participate.

In Islamabad, Ambassador Wells met Minister for Finance Asad Umer, senior officials from the ministries of foreign affairs and interior and Director General Military Operations Nauman Zakria.

In these meetings, Ambassador Wells “reaffirmed the goal expressed by both Secretary of State George Pompeo and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi to build a mutually-beneficial relationship based on trust”, said the official US statement. The two chief diplomats expressed the desire to rebuild and reset the relationship at a meeting in Washington early last month.

The Geneva conference will follow a 12-nation meeting in Moscow on Friday. Moscow has also invited the Taliban to this meeting.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement released on Tuesday that a high-ranking delegation from the Taliban’s Qatar-based office will travel to the Russian capital to attend the meeting.

Afghanistan’s High Peace Council — a government body responsible for reconciliation efforts with the militants — said it would also send four representatives to the Moscow peace talks.

Moscow has also invited representatives from the United States, India, Iran, China, Pakistan and five former Soviet republics in Central Asia — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal told journalists in Islamabad earlier this week that “Pakistan will definitely attend” the meeting.

US officials, however, did not respond to requests for comments on whether Washington is also sending a delegation to Moscow.

The statement on Ambassador Wells’ visit did not address this question either, but it did “underscore the importance of all actors in the region taking steps to advance security, stability, and cooperation in South Asia” and welcomed Pakistan’s commitment to work towards this goal.

Ambassador Wells also discussed with Pakistani officials opportunities to build business and economic ties between the United States and Pakistan, and explored other areas for growth in bilateral relationship.

Ambassador Wells also met think tank representatives, regional security experts and members of civil society and “highlighted the United States’ commitment to work collaboratively to advance the shared goals of the American and Pakistani people,” the statement added.

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