Zalmay Khalilzad delays visit to Pakistan

ISLAMABAD            -        US top peace negotiator for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad yesterday changed his itinerary for talks with the Pakistani leaders as he delayed his visit to Islamabad.

The US Special Envoy was expected to arrive in Islamabad on July 28 for talks but had to make last-minute changes.

The US envoy is in the region in efforts to jump-start negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban as the insurgents offered a conciliatory message ahead of Eidul Azha.

Khalilzad’s stops include Islamabad, Kabul and Doha, where the Taliban maintain a political office. The foreign office and the US embassy did not confirm when Khalilzad will come under the revised schedule but he was “most likely to visit” Islamabad.

In his message ahead of the Eidul-Azha holidays, Taliban leader Hibatullah Akhunzada said the insurgents do not seek to monopolize power in a future political makeup of Afghanistan.

The message repeatedly referenced an Islamic government that the Taliban seek to establish in Afghanistan, without elaborating on how it would be different.

This month, Zalmay Khalilzad had thanked Pakistan for its

 ongoing efforts towards ending conflict in the war-torn country after his Islamabad visit this month.

The peace envoy said Afghanistan’s Taliban and Kabul’s political leaders were close to starting negotiations to decide the face of a post-war Afghanistan. This is a crucial a step to give final shape to a US deal signed with the Taliban in February.

Foreign Office spokesperson Aisha Farooqui said Pakistan had played a significant role in the Afghan peace.  “We want peace in the region. Peace in Afghanistan is in our interest. US acknowledges our contribution,” she said.

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