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July 23, 2018

28-member Pak delegation arrives in Kabul for APAPPS talks

National

July 23, 2018

ISLAMABAD: On the eve of general elections, the caretaker government after the recent envoys conference, kick started the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS) by sending a 28-member delegation led by Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua to Kabul on Sunday.

“The team’s visit two days before the general polls showed Islamabad’s commitment to the APAPPS,” Tehmina Janjua said on arrival at Kabul airport.

Tehmina Janjua arrived on a day when media reports from Kabul spoke about casualties after a blast near Kabul’s international airport, shortly after Afghan Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum returned to the country after more than a year in exile. The explosion happened as Dostum was leaving the airport with a large crowd of government officials and supporters.

It was the last Muslim League government encouraged by the Army that APAPPS was set up, basically a mechanism for finding solutions to mutual areas of concerns, to strengthen trust and deepen interaction.

With rhetoric at an all-time low between the two neighbours, Sunday saw them looking into this agreement where it has focused on operationalising six working groups, including one for counter-terrorism

The APAPPS pursues seven principles: a commitment by Pakistan to support Afghan-led peace and reconciliation; undertaking actions against fugitives and irreconcilable elements posing security threats to either country; deny use of respective territory by either country; placing a joint supervision and coordination mechanism to realise APAPPS agreement, avoid territorial violations and refrain from blame-game.

While the US military commanders in Washington and Kabul have called out to Pakistan to play a bigger role towards peace in Afghanistan, some saying that peace without Pakistan would be elusive, the US media reports spoke of American officials and former Afghan Taliban members in talks in the UAE.

The NBC News commented that negotiators from the Taliban side consist of a number of commanders, political leaders and former members who meet the US officials and conveyed to the current Taliban leadership their messages from the talks and the options discussed.

The US officials were also described taking “unprecedented” interest in the peace process in recent months, according to a Taliban commander.

Earlier, to several questions of US and Afghan Taliban meetings, spokesman at the Foreign Office stated, “I would like to draw your attention to the statements emanating from Afghan and the US sides about making the timeline of withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan, a part of the overall agenda of peace talks with the Taliban. We believe flexibility over stated positions on either side would facilitate kick-starting a peace process in Afghanistan. In this regard, we should also keep in mind the earlier statements of President Ashraf Ghani about the vitality of continued foreign support for sustenance of Afghanistan.”

Meanwhile in a statement, the Foreign Office said, "The Pakistan delegation comprised of a 28-member multi-departmental high level delegation which included representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, States and Frontier Regions (Safron), Commerce, FBR, Railways, Communications, Interior, Military and Intelligence which met with their Afghan counterparts in respective working groups."

The APAPPS framework provides a comprehensive and structured mechanism to enhance engagement between counterpart institutions of the two countries. The APAPPS is comprised of five working groups on politico-diplomatic, military, intelligence, economic and trade and refugees issues. Afghan deputy foreign minister and foreign secretary of Pakistan led their respective sides in the politico-diplomatic working group besides co-chairing the opening and closing sessions of the APAPPS.

"In the inaugural joint meeting of the working groups, the Afghan and Pakistani side assessed prospects for the APAPPS forum that covers all areas of mutual interest including counter terrorism & security, peace and reconciliation, bilateral trade and transit, connectivity, Afghan refugees' repatriation and promoting people to people contacts", said the statement.

"The concluding session noted the great importance of APAPPS to deliver on the commitments made under this forum within the mutually agreed time frame," added the statement.

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