KABUL, Afghanistan – The foreign ministers of Afghanistan, Pakistan and China met Saturday in Kabul to discuss trade, development and ways to end Afghanistan’s 17-year war.
The prickly relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan dominated the talks, with all three countries agreeing that a peaceful end to the war would have economic and trade benefits for the entire region.
Pakistan and Afghanistan have long accused each other of failing to combat the Taliban and other militant groups that operate along their porous border. China, which has hosted Taliban leaders in an effort to bring the warring sides to the negotiating table, sees an end to the war as critical to its “One Belt, One Road” policy of expanding trade links across Asia.
China is investing tens of billions of dollars in Pakistan, and the two have forged close economic ties. Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani said his country also wants to participate in the Chinese initiative.
Efforts to end the Afghan conflict have accelerated since the appointment in September of U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who has shuttled across the region in an effort to revive Afghan peace talks. He has reportedly held several meetings with the Taliban at their political office in the Gulf country of Qatar. The State Department has neither confirmed nor denied the talks.
Khalilzad, who says he is in contact with all parties to the conflict, is expected to return to the Middle East again this week.
In a news conference after Saturday’s trilateral talks, Rabbani said that Kabul had yet to see “tangible progress” from Pakistan “in the fight against terrorism.” He said Afghanistan wanted to see some “specific measures” from Islamabad to end the violence, without offering details
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said Islamabad wanted a fresh start in its relationship with Afghanistan.
“The time has come to move on, to stop pointing fingers, join hands for a future,” said Qureshi. “If you want Pakistan to act for reconciliation then stop pointing fingers at Pakistan.”
Associated Press writer Kathy Gannon in Islamabad contributed.