ISLAMABAD – Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is expected to visit Pakistan on Dec 9 on the occasion of the Fifth Ministerial Conference of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process which is being jointly hosted by Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The two-day meeting of the regional initiative is being held on Dec 8-9 in Islamabad and will be attended by foreign ministers or senior representatives from Azerbaijan, China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Saudi Arabia,Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and UAE.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, at a trilateral meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his British counterpart David Cameroon on the sidelines of the Summit on Climate Change in Paris, said: “A warm welcome awaits Mr Ghani in Islamabad at the Heart of Asia Meeting on 9th December”.
A Foreign Office statement confirmed that the Afghan President and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will jointly inaugurate the regional conference on Afghanistan on December 9 in Islamabad.
President Ashraf Ghani said, ‘Afghanistan is hoping to improve its rocky relations with neighboring Pakistan over the next few months as a prelude to a possible return to stalled peace talks with Taliban insurgents.’
But said he was considering an invitation to visit Pakistan next week and, with fighting normally slackening in the winter months, he said Pakistan could play a role in brokering contacts with Taliban fighters that Afghanistan has long said were being steered from Islamabad.
Major progress towards resumption of Pak-Afghan high-level contacts happened after Pakistan and the United States agreed to work together for the revival of Afghan peace dialogue during Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif’s visit to Washington in the later part of November.
The United Kingdom later also played its part in arranging the Ghani-Sharif meeting.
In a reference to the detractors of the peace process and various upsets that happened or could take place in future, Mr Sharif advised the Afghan government to steadfastly pursue the objective of peace and stability in Afghanistan, notwithstanding the obstacles and impediments in the pursuit of this objective.
Mr Ghani’s visit was in doubt because of the strains in ties that followed the breakdown of the reconciliation dialogue in July between the Afghan government and Taliban, which was facilitated by Pakistan.