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US seeks Pakistan’s help for coaxing Taliban back into talks

ISLAMABAD: Senior US official Lisa Curtis on Tuesday opened her visit to Pakistan with meetings amidst reports that the process of engagement with the Taliban for restarting the Afghan peace process had stalled.

US Special Envoy for Afghan Peace and Reconciliation Amb Zalmay Khalilzad, who too was due in Islamabad, could not reach here because of changes in his itinerary. Amb Khalilzad in his latest trip to the region has faced several unexpected changes. He is currently in Afghanistan.

“His schedule has been fluid all week,” a diplomatic source said, adding that the special envoy was likely to visit Islamabad in the next few days.

No details about Ms Curtis’ meetings were publicly available. She is believed to be here to push for resumption of engagement with the Taliban in addition to certain bilateral issues.

Senior US official Lisa Curtis arrives in Islamabad for meetings

Pakistan last month facilitated a meeting between the US special envoy and Taliban representatives in Abu Dhabi. UAE and Saudi officials attended the meeting as observers. It was agreed at the Abu Dhabi meeting that the process would continue and another meeting would be convened, but no date and venue for the next interaction has been set so far.

A diplomatic source said: “The Taliban are refusing to talk to the Afghan government. The US wants Pakistan to pressure Pakistan-based Taliban leadership to accept direct negotiations with the Afghan government.” The Pakistani government, he further said, was insisting that it had little control over the Taliban.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, meanwhile, talking to president of the East-West Institute and former US ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter said: “Pakistan fully supports a political settlement in Afghanistan which is the only viable option to end this conflict.”

Mr Khan emphasised the need for ensuring regional security so that economic progress could take place.

Mr Munter said he continued to advocate strong relationship between Islamabad and Washington as Pakistan was an important country of the region and critical to US national security objectives.

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