Afghanistan's top official in negotiations with the Taliban, Abdullah Abdullah, meets Pakistani officials in Islamabad, in talks aimed at ending decades of war and a reset of bilateral ties.

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi (R) bumps elbows with Abdullah Abdullah, the head of Afghanistan's peace council, upon his arrival in Pakistan on September 28, 2020.
Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi (R) bumps elbows with Abdullah Abdullah, the head of Afghanistan's peace council, upon his arrival in Pakistan on September 28, 2020. (Reuters)

Senior Afghan peace official Abdullah Abdullah has held talks with Pakistani officials in the capital Islamabad. 

Afghanistan's top official in negotiations with the Taliban arrived in Pakistan on Monday on a three-day trip during which he will meet with the country's prime minister and other government officials.

Abdullah, who leads the Afghan High Council for National Reconciliation, was received by top government officials on arriving in Islamabad. Adbullah expressed his gratitude to Pakistani leadership over its role in the Afghan peace process.

Apart from meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan, the Afghan reconciliation leader also will meet with President Arif Alvi, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, and other officials. 

The council represents the Afghan government in historic peace negotiations with the Taliban, which began in Qatar in September.

Pakistan 'fully supports' peace efforts

Welcoming Abdullah's visit, Pakistan's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the visit "will provide an opportunity for the wide-ranging exchange of views on the Afghan peace process and strengthening of Pakistan-Afghanistan bilateral relations and people-to-people interaction." 

"Pakistan fully supports all efforts for the peace, stability, and prosperity of the Afghan people," the ministry added. 

Abdullah hoped his visit will open a new chapter of "mutual cooperation" at all levels, Tolo News reported.  

Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have long been rocky. 

Afghanistan and its international allies have for years accused Pakistan of backing Taliban insurgents.

READ MORE: Pakistan sanctions Afghan Taliban to avoid FATF blacklisting

Looking for a Pak-Afghan agreement

Pakistan denies supporting the Taliban and in turn, accuses Afghanistan of letting anti-Pakistan militants plot attacks from Afghan soil, which Afghanistan denies.

The United States has acknowledged Pakistan's help in fostering Afghan peace efforts including in encouraging the Taliban to negotiate.

The US special representative for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, said last week the United States and its allies were looking at an agreement between Afghanistan and Pakistan so that neither side's territory would be used to attack the other.

Khalilzad was the architect of a February pact between the United States and the Taliban allowing US troops to withdraw from Afghanistan in exchange for Taliban guarantees on international terrorism.

READ MORE: Is Pakistan losing its influence over the Taliban?

Khan against 'hasty' troop withdrawal 

But Prime Minister Khan, in an opinion piece in the Washington Post on Saturday expressed concern that Afghanistan could again be used as a haven for international militant groups and warned that a "hasty international withdrawal from Afghanistan would be unwise."

There have also been concerns that the Afghan peace process could increase militancy in Pakistan as fighters now in Afghanistan seek refuge on the Pakistani side of the border.

Afghan and Taliban negotiators have been meeting in Doha since September 12 hoping to agree on a ceasefire and a power-sharing deal.

But they have been bogged down on principles and procedures for talks even before discussing their agenda.

Source: Reuters