WASHINGTON - The Durand Line is the internationally recognised border that separates Pakistan and Afghanistan, a US State Department spokesman said Tuesday while backing special envoy Ambassador Marc Grossman’s statement reaffirming Washington’s stand in Kabul on the frontier.

“Our policy on this has not changed. It was correctly stated by Ambassador Grossman that we see this as the internationally recognised boundary,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters at the daily press briefing.

She was replying to a question about the Afghan government’s reported criticism of the statement made by US Special Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan Grossman during his visit to Kabul, where he reiterated Washington’s policy of international recognition of Durand Line. The spokesperson said he was not aware of Afghanistan registering any protest with the US on the issue. “To my knowledge, no. But I know there has been quite a bit of press commentary out there.” Agencies add: Only the Afghans reserve the right to take a decision on the Durand Line and outsiders’ remarks on the issue amount to interference in the country’s internal affairs, Afghan lawmakers said on Tuesday.

A day earlier, Kabul took strong exception to US Special Envoy Marc Grossman’s statement that the Durand Line was an internationally recognised border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

On his arrival in Kabul from Islamabad, where he held talks with Pakistani officials, the diplomat told Channel One the United States considered the Durand Line an international border.

Soon after his remarks were aired, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the status of the Durand Line was a matter of historic importance for the Afghan people. “The Afghan government, therefore, rejects and considers irrelevant any statement by anyone about the legal status of this line,” the ministry spokesman, Janan Musazai, said.

The 1,500-mile border was agreed in a treaty signed on November 12, 1893, in Kabul by Sir Mortimer Durand, representing British India, and Amir Abdur Rahman, the ex-Afghan king. But Afghanistan has never accepted the legitimacy of this border, arguing that it was intended to demarcate spheres of influence rather than international frontiers.

Grossman’s remarks fuelled a heated debate during the Afghan Senate session on Tuesday, when a member said the Afghans alone could decide the fate of the controversial line.

Mohammad Daud Hassas added: “Neither Grossman nor his country is authorised to given their opinion on the Durand Line.” Since the Afghans did recognise the line, such remarks by the Americans would lead to bad consequences, he observed.

Hafiz Abdul Qayyum, a senator from eastern Nuristan province, remarked: “The US is neither a judge nor a prosecutor to settle the problem between Afghanistan and Pakistan.” He suggested the neighbours should sit across the negotiating table to find a solution.