Pakistan PM Khan says to meet Taliban in peace push

Source:AFP Published: 2019/7/24 21:18:41

Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan said Tuesday he would meet with the Taliban after returning to his country, as part of efforts to end 18 years of war in Afghanistan.

Khan spoke in Washington on his first official trip to the US, where President Donald Trump hosted him at the White House a day earlier.

He said that he had also spoken with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, and now, when he goes back, "I will meet the Taliban and I will try my best to get them to talk to the Afghan government."

Speaking at the US Institute for Peace, a bipartisan federal body, Khan said that he had been contacted by the Islamist extremist Afghan Taliban "a few months back," after his election win in July 2018, but did not take a meeting at that time because Kabul was not in favor of it.

The militants reached out to him "because I always maintained there was no military solution" to the war in Afghanistan, he said.

"So because of that, I had a certain amount of credibility amongst them," added Khan.

Khan earlier Tuesday met with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who emphasized the importance of working together and "Pakistan's significant role in supporting the Afghan peace process and counterterrorism," according to a US statement.

The US peace envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, left for Kabul Monday for the latest round of talks. From there he is to head to Doha, Qatar. Khalilzad has had several meetings with the Taliban in the past year, the most recent being on July 9 in Doha.

But the major hurdle has so far been the Taliban's refusal to negotiate directly with the Afghan government.

"It's not going to be easy because there's no centralized command, it's a devolved movement," Khan cautioned about the insurgent group.

"But we feel that if we all work together, we feel this is the best chance of there to be peace in Afghanistan, " he said.

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