(Update 1: updates with Khan’s statement, details of visit)
Kabul, Nov 19 (efe-epa).- Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday pledged to help efforts to reduce violence in Afghanistan during his first official visit to the country, as part of a bid to boost the ongoing peace negotiations in Doha between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
“My idea of choosing this time to come (to Afghanistan) was to assure you that Pakistan will do everything possible to help reduce this level of violence, in fact to move to a ceasefire,” Khan said in a joint press conference in Kabul with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani after meeting him at the presidential palace.
The leader said that Pakistan had “noticed with concerns” a recent spike in violence in Afghanistan despite the ongoing talks in Qatar, which started in September.
“We assure you that (we will do) whatever is within our grasp,” Khan assured Ghani, before highlighting that it was Islamabad which had initially facilitated negotiations between the Taliban and the United States.
This process culminated in February with the signing of the Doha agreement, which stipulates the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and paved the way for intra-Afghan negotiations.
“The objective of this visit is to build trust, to communicate more, to assure you that wherever you need help, we will be (there),” the Pakistani PM insisted.
Ghani said that Khan’s visit sends a “series of very important messages,” including the principle that “violence is not an answer.”
The Afghan president reiterated his appeal for a “comprehensive ceasefire as soon as possible.”
According to an official press release by Pakistan, the two countries also released a vision document aimed at boosting cooperation for “political, economic and people-to-people exchanges” and discussed energy and infrastructure projects, including the development of new cross-border railroads.
Afghanistan has long accused Islamabad of harboring and supporting the Taliban in its territory while the militants have waged a war against Afghan troops for 19 years. However, Pakistan has denied the allegations.
Although the Taliban agreed in the agreement with the US to not to launch large-scale attacks in urban areas, including the district centers, violence has increased in recent weeks.
The Afghan interior ministry said on Wednesday that at least 1,210 civilians had been killed and around 2,500 had been injured in the conflict during the first six months of the year. EFE-EPA