ISLAMABAD          -             Pakistan yesterday said the US-Taliban peace deal in the coming days will provide an opportunity for durable stability in Afghanistan and the region.

Pakistan’s statement came after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that an agreement would be signed between Washington and Afghan Taliban on February 29 that would bring to an end America’s longest war.

Pompeo tweeted: “After decades of conflict, we have come to an understanding with the Taliban on a significant reduction in violence across Afghanistan,” describing the latest development as “an important step on a long road to peace.” He urged the Afghans “to seize this opportunity.”

A foreign ministry statement said: “Pakistan welcomes the announcement regarding the US-Taliban agreement. Pakistan has consistently supported direct negotiations between the US and Taliban.” 

From the outset, it said, “Pakistan has facilitated this process and contributed to its progress thus far. We look forward to the signing of the agreement on 29 February 2020.”

The statement said Pakistan believed the signing of the US-Taliban agreement will pave the way for the next step of intra-Afghan negotiations.

“We hope the Afghan parties would now seize this historic opportunity and work out a comprehensive and inclusive political settlement for durable peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region,” it added.

In a separate statement released by the US State Department, Pompeo offered further details regarding the “extensive talks” between the two parties, which he said were intended to “facilitate a political settlement to end the war in Afghanistan, reduce United States and Allied Forces presence, and ensure that no terrorist group ever uses Afghan soil to threaten the United States or our allies.”

Pompeo said that US negotiators in Doha, Qatar, had arrived at the understanding with the Taliban in recent weeks in consultation with the Afghan government. Upon the “successful implementation” of the understanding, “signing of the US-Taliban agreement is expected to move forward” at the end of February, he said.

He hoped that the Intra-Afghan negotiations will start soon thereafter, and will build on this fundamental step to deliver a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire and the future political roadmap for Afghanistan.

The announcement from Pompeo came after he and Defense Secretary Mark Esper met last week with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on the sidelines of an international security forum in Munich. An American official had then said that the US and the Taliban had reached a truce agreement for a seven-day “reduction in violence” to be followed by the start of all-Afghan peace talks within 10 days.

This week US Special Representative for Afghan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad held meetings with Prime Minister Imran Khan, army chief Qamnar Javed Bajwa and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi to discuss the Afghan issue.