UPDATE 1-U.S. envoy meets Pakistan army chief to discuss Afghan peace steps

(Adds US embassy comment)

By Charlotte Greenfield

ISLAMABAD, March 8 (Reuters) – The U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and the commander of NATO forces there met Pakistan’s army chief on Monday to discuss the Afghan peace process at a pivotal juncture for the stalled negotiations.

Pakistan is the third country that U.S. Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has visited in the last week as Washington looks to inject new life into Afghan peacemaking with a U.S. troop withdrawal deadline looming in May.

Khalilzad and General Scott Miller, the head of U.S. forces and the NATO-led non-combat Resolute Support mission, met General Qamar Javed Bajwa at Pakistani army headquarters in Rawalpindi, according to the media wing of Pakistan’s military.

“Matters of mutual interest, regional security and ongoing Afghanistan Reconciliation Process were discussed during the meeting,” a statement said. “The visiting dignitary greatly appreciated Pakistan’s role in the ongoing peace process.”

Pakistan is seen as a key player in Afghan peacemaking and has been acknowledged by Washington for helping to bring the insurgent Taliban, in power from 1996 to 2001, to the negotiating table.

But the process has stalled amid a resurgence of violence and disputes over the agenda for negotiations, including ceasefire arrangements.

A statement from the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad said Khalilzad had “stressed the need to accelerate progress towards a just and durable peace in Afghanistan” during the meetings with Bajwa and with government officials.

“Ambassador Khalilzad emphasized Pakistan’s continued important role in the peace process, especially to help Afghans achieve a political settlement and comprehensive ceasefire,’ the statement added.

The U.S. special envoy proposed a shake-up of the process this week during visits to Kabul and the Qatari capital, Doha, the venue for negotiations, according to diplomatic and political sources. shared a letter with Afghanistan’s president and top peace official, published in local media and verified by Reuters, which said Washington would ask the United Nations to convene foreign ministers and envoys from Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, India and United States “to discuss a unified approach to supporting peace in Afghanistan”. State Department declined to confirm the letter’s veracity, but said on Sunday after it was published by media that all options remain on the table for its remaining 2,500 troops in Afghanistan.



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