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December 7, 2018

Kartarpur Corridor won’t put Kashmir issue on back burner: FO

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December 7, 2018

ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office on Thursday said the Kashmir issue will not be put on back burner with the opening of Kartarpur Corridor.

During his weekly press briefing, Foreign Office Spokesman Dr Muhammad Faisal said no conditions were placed during US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad's recent visit to Pakistan.

Pakistan and the United States at the conclusion of the visit of Zalmay Khalilzad announced that both would together, with all stakeholders involved in the Afghan peace process, work towards a solution to the Afghan conflict through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process.

Pakistan cautiously says it will continue to make efforts to ensure that the Taliban can be brought around for talks with the different stakeholders but will not make public the kind of 'help' sought by the US for talks with the Taliban.

“Ambassador Khalilzad stressed the United States' commitment to facilitating a political settlement between the Afghan government and the Taliban that ensures Afghanistan never again serves as a platform for international terrorism and ends the 40-year-long war in the country, and he highlighted that all countries in the region will benefit from peace in Afghanistan”, says a statement from the US embassy.

The US embassy also remarked that Khalilzad had met with the army chief, something that neither the Foreign Office nor the ISPR acknowledged. The Foreign Office did not issue any statement at the conclusion of Khalilzad’s talks at the ministry. Later, at the regular media briefing, the spokesman responded that Pakistan has consistently maintained that the solution to the war in Afghanistan lies in a negotiated settlement through a dialogue.

“It is heartening to know that the US is finally realising the same,” said the spokesman. Besides deliberating with the US, the spokesman pointed out to ‘activity’ in Qatar, which is the political office for the Taliban where they recently met with Khalilzad and earlier with diplomats from the US State Department.

“We also remain engaged with the Afghan government regarding the peace process. The point that has to be registered is that all the stakeholders involved in the Afghan peace process are now in agreement with our considered position that the solution to the Afghan conflict rests in dialogue,” he added.

While the spokesman shrugged aside a query about the presence of the Afghan Taliban in Islamabad who could have met with Khalilzad, he did not raise hopes about Pakistan’s role regarding the Taliban and remained cautious.

“We have been repeatedly saying that Pakistan has its limitations regarding Taliban. However, we continue to make all possible efforts in this regard. I would again emphasise that the point to be registered is that all stakeholders now agree with Pakistan’s position that the final settlement of the Afghan conflict can only be achieved through dialogue,” he said.

The spokesman, however, shied away from questions asking for the “new terms of engagement” with the United States and if there were any specific demands from either side during Khalilzad’s visit.

“I cannot share the details with you at this moment. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad was in Pakistan for discussions through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process,” the spokesman said.

He added that ‘demand’ was not something that came up during the bilateral talks on Afghanistan. “I want to clarify that when we negotiate there are no pre-set demands. Both sides give their positions and we try to identify converging areas to move forward. This is diplomacy. It remains our desire that matters may be resolved through dialogue rather than resorting to settlement through gun,” he said.

When asked about details of the December 15 trilateral meeting in Kabul together with China and Afghanistan, he replied, “It is a bit early to comment on the matter but we will update you in due course.”

On the meeting between Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and the governor of Gilgit-Baltistan, he replied, “I can assure you that all steps that are being taken, and will be taken in the future, are aimed at empowerment of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan. There will be good news for the people of Gilgit-Baltistan. We want to empower them and strengthen their role”.

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