Officials from Afghanistan, Pakistan and China met in the Afghan capital Kabul on Saturday to discuss trade, development and solutions to end the region’s relentless conflicts.
The bitter 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 armed groups that operate along their porous border.
During a news conference after the trilateral talks, Foreign Minister Salahuddin 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,” Qureshi said. “If you want Pakistan to act for reconciliation then stop pointing fingers at Pakistan.”
“One Belt, One Road”
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.
It is the second such meeting of the three neighbouring countries.
China is investing tens of billions of dollars in Pakistan, and the two have forged close economic ties.
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a key cog of that policy, under which Beijing has pledged $60bn to build power stations, major highways, new and upgraded railways and higher capacity ports to help turn Pakistan into a major overland route linking western China to the world.
Afghanistan’s 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 US 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.
Afghanistan and the United States also accuse Islamabad of providing support to the Taliban fighting the Afghan government and international forces in the country. Pakistan rejects this accusation.
On Friday, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan confirmed that Islamabad was facilitating talks between the US and the Taliban.
The talks are scheduled to begin on December 17, the Dawn newspaper reported.
Earlier this month, US President Donald Trump also asked Pakistan to help bring the Taliban to the negotiating table in Afghanistan.