ISLAMABAD  -   The United States opposed China’s role in solution of Afghanistan issue and asked Pakistan not to rely too much on the regional power, officials said.

Senior officials at the foreign ministry told The Nation that the US had contacted Pakistan over the plans to have a trilateral meeting among Pakistan, China and Afghanistan in coming days, urging Islamabad to refrain from giving Beijing ‘too much importance’ on the Afghanistan issue.

One official said: “The US basically does not consider China a key party in the Afghanistan issue. They want a US-sponsored solution to the issue.” He said Pakistan had tried to convince the US that any help to resolve the Afghanistan issue should be welcomed. “We have told them that the key party is Afghanistan itself. All others are facilitators and we should not deny support from any country (for Afghanistan peace),” he added.

This week, Prime Minister Imran Khan held meetings with Chinese president, prime minister, chairman national people’s congress and vice president and discussed the entire gamut of bilateral relations and regional and international issues, including possibility of talks with India, situation in Afghanistan, and counter terrorism cooperation.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi later said that a trilateral meeting among Pakistan, China and Afghanistan would be held in December to discuss the Afghan issue.

Another official that since US-China ties were tense, Washington’s annoyance over Beijing’s role in the solution of the Afghanistan issue was ‘natural’. “If China does find a solution, it will be indigestible for the US,” he added.

US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells was in Islamabad from November 6-7 for talks on Afghanistan and terror financing.

Officials said that the two sides discussed possible talks with Taliban and Pakistan’s steps to avert severe sanctions by the Financial Action Task Force which meets again in January.

Meeting on refugees’ repatriation

Yesterday, Pakistan and Afghanistan held second meeting of the Refugee Working Group under the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Stability at the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions in Islamabad. The first meeting was held during the visit of Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua to Kabul on July 22 for the inaugural session of APAPPS.

The Afghan delegation was headed by Deputy Minister for Afghan Ministry of Refugee Affairs Dr Alema Aslam, while Secretary SAFRON led the Pakistan side in the meeting, which discussed matters related to Afghan refugees and other Afghan nationals illegally residing in Pakistan.

“Both sides deliberated on the ways to enhance mutual cooperation for a dignified, gradual, time-bound and complete return of the Afghan nationals to their country. It was also decided to observe the agreed timelines and procedures for repatriation of various categories of these persons to Afghanistan,” said a statement released by the foreign ministry.

During the meeting, the two sides signed a standard operating procedure for streamlining the working of the group among the two concerned Ministries on a regular basis, in future.

APAPPS WG works on principles of direct, regular contact among relevant ministries in both countries, under the umbrella of the politico-diplomatic WG co-chaired by the two ministries of foreign affairs.

Highlighting importance of the APAPPS for furthering bilateral relations, the two sides agreed to utilise the forum to deepen engagement, communication and understanding for early return and resettlement of Afghan refugees and to promote cooperation under various working groups of the framework.

Next meeting of the APAPPS Working Group on Refugees will be held in Kabul at a mutually convenient date, said the statement.

US embassy statement

A US embassy statement said that Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells visited Islamabad November 6-7 to review key items on bilateral agenda, including the upcoming Geneva Conference on Afghanistan and joint efforts to advance the Afghan peace process.

“Ambassador Wells met Minister of Finance Asad Umer, senior officials from the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Interior, and Director General Military Operations Nauman Zakria.”

Ambassador Wells reaffirmed the goal expressed by both Secretary Mike Pompeo and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi to build a mutually-beneficial relationship based on trust,” the statement said.

It added: “Ambassador Wells underscored importance of all actors in the region while takings steps to advance security, stability, and cooperation in South Asia, and welcomed commitment from Pakistani officials to work towards this goal. Ambassador Wells also discussed opportunities to build business and economic ties between the United States and Pakistan, and explored other areas for growth in bilateral relationship.”

Ambassador Wells also met think tank representatives, regional security experts, and members of civil society. She highlighted the United States’ commitment to work collaboratively to advance the shared goals of the American and Pakistani people.