ISLAMABAD - Pakistan and the United States Tuesday agreed to work jointly to placate the Taliban and bring them on the talks table, officials said.

Senior officials told The Nation after meetings between US Special Envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua the two sides decided to use their influence for regional peace, especially in Afghanistan.

“The two countries are hoping to move and improve ties. Joint efforts in Afghanistan are key to Pak-US relations. Both countries will try to placate Taliban and start a dialogue process for peace,” said one official.

Another official said: “The US has asked Pakistan to show its ‘seriousness’ by helping the US to hold talks with Taliban.”

In his meeting with Zalmay Khalilzad, Foreign Minister Qureshi said that Pakistan will continue to play its role for political solution of the Afghan conflict. The foreign minister said Pakistan welcomed the US efforts for peace in Afghanistan. “Both leaders agreed to continue cooperation on Afghan reconciliation process,” said an official statement.

The US envoy is leading an interagency delegation to the region. Khalilzad will be in Afghanistan and Pakistan from October 4 to 14.

Earlier in the day, Khalilzad also met Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua at the Foreign Office. Khalilzad and Janjua led their respective delegations for talks between the United States and Pakistan. The delegations comprised security, defence and diplomatic officials from both sides.

“Special Representative Khalilzad’s mission is to coordinate and lead US efforts to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table,” the US Department of State statement had said last week.

The special representative will also be working in close coordination with the Afghan government and various stakeholders and “explore how best to reach a negotiated settlement to the conflict”.

The trip is Khalilzad’s first visit following his appointment as special representative and reflects the “administration’s intent to support, facilitate, and participate in a peace process in Afghanistan,” the statement added.

Over the weekend, Khalilzad met President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul to discuss possible peace talks with the Taliban, who have repeatedly rejected negotiation offers and called for a boycott of an Afghan general election set for October 20.

According to Voice of America (VOA), the Taliban reportedly have hinted at meeting Khalilzad when he visits Qatar but neither side has officially confirmed whether a meeting is scheduled.

During his two days of meetings in Kabul with political leaders both in and outside of government as well as key civil society groups, the US envoy asked for cooperation from all sides to bring an end to the conflict.

“He called on the parties to facilitate dialogue by forming inclusive negotiating teams,” according to a statement issued by the US Embassy in Kabul Tuesday. “We, in cooperation with the Afghan people and government, want to make a peaceful Afghanistan where all Afghans see themselves included. All citizens of Afghanistan must be a part of the reconciliation process,” it added.

US has repeatedly accused Pakistan of providing safe haven to Taliban militants in its border regions with Afghanistan and using them as an arm of its foreign policy. Pakistan denies using proxies.

Khalilzad is set to travel to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar after leaving Islamabad as part of a 10-day trip in a bid to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.

The Afghan-born former ambassador’s knowledge of the country’s main languages, culture and politics could help him engage with all stakeholders in the peace process, besides his experience advising or working for four US administrations.

This month, Pakistan and the US had agreed on a new tit-for-tat cooperation – using their influence in Afghanistan and India.

“Pakistan will help in Afghanistan while the US would use its good offices in India to defuse Pak-India tension. The cooperation from sides is conditional but there is no written agreement. The two sides will rely on actions,” an official had told The Nation last week.

This month, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi met several US officials including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in New York and Washington on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

It was in those meetings that Pakistan pledged to support negotiations with the Taliban to end Afghanistan’s 17-year war and in return asked the US to restore military aid.

Later, Pompeo said the US looked forward to working with the new government of Pakistan in implementing its reform agenda. He appreciated Pakistan’s support for political reconciliation in Afghanistan and its efforts for peace in the neighborhood.

Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Mohammed Faisal said Pakistan’s relations with the US were on a ‘positive trajectory.’ He said bringing Afghan Taliban to negotiating table was collective responsibility of all countries.

About the fate of Dr Shakil Afridi, who helped the US find Osama Bin Laden, Dr Faisal said there was no change of policy on Afridi.

Recently, the US military said it had made a decision to cancel $300 million in aid to Pakistan that had been suspended over Islamabad’s perceived failure to take decisive action against militants.

The so-called Coalition Support Funds were part of a broader suspension in aid to Pakistan announced by President Donald Trump at the start of the year, when he accused Pakistan of rewarding past assistance with “nothing but lies and deceit.”

The US alleged Islamabad was granting safe haven to insurgents who are waging a 17-year-old war in neighboring Afghanistan, a charge Pakistan denies.

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis, in particular, had an opportunity to authorize $300 million in CSF funds through this summer - if he saw concrete Pakistani actions to go after insurgents, but he chose not to do so.

This month however, Foreign Minister Qureshi said he found Mike Pompeo “ready to listen” to Pakistan and said he was returning to Islamabad “slightly more hopeful” than before.