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Afghan Peace Negotiator Urges New Era  09/29 06:09


   ISLAMABAD (AP) -- The chief of Afghanistan's peace negotiating team said 
Tuesday on a visit to Pakistan that the time has come for the two neighboring 
countries to shun the suspicion, "stale rhetoric" and tired conspiracy theories 
that have dogged past relations.

   Abdullah Abdullah is in Pakistan on a bridge-building mission meant to mend 
deep-rooted mistrust between the two countries. It was his first visit in 12 

   Abdullah told the Institute of Strategic Studies in the federal capital of 
Islamabad that the two neighbors are on the threshold of a new relationship 
characterized by "mutual respect, sincere cooperation and shared prosperity."

   "I am a firm believer that after many troubling years, we now need to go 
beyond the usual stale rhetoric and shadowy conspiracy theories that have held 
us back," Abdullah said. "We cannot afford to pursue business as usual. We need 
fresh approaches and our people demand it. It is more urgent than ever to look 
to our region as one region. "

   His statements come ahead of meetings later Tuesday with Pakistan's powerful 
army chief and prime minister. His visit also comes at a crucial time in 
Afghanistan's troubled history as a government-appointed negotiation team is in 
the Gulf state of Qatar brokering an end to war with its Taliban foes.

   Even before coming to power in 2018, Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan 
has advocated for a political end to Afghanistan's war and has been a strong 
critic of Washington's so-called war on terror saying it has left tens of 
thousands of Pakistanis and Afghans dead.

   But many in Afghanistan have been critical of the support the Taliban 
received in Pakistan following the collapse of their rule in 2001 with the 
U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan. Pakistan argues its relationship with the 
Taliban was what gave it leverage to press the religious militia into 

   Still, Afghans are deeply suspicious of Pakistan and government officials 
fear Pakistan's continued involvement in their country as a means to counter 
its hostile neighbor India's influence in Afghanistan. Pakistan and India have 
gone to war three times and both Pakistan and India accuse each other of using 
Afghan territory to undermine stability in the region.

   Pakistan has come under international criticism for its support for some 
militant groups and opposition to others. While Pakistan's military and 
politicians say that policy has been relegated to the past, Islamabad's 
neighbors remain suspicious.

   "We do not want a terrorist footprint in our country or to allow any entity 
to pose a threat to any other nation," Abdullah said Tuesday. "The current 
intra-Afghan talks offer the best hope to put the war behind and using 
patience, dialogue and compromise to agree to unite the country. "

   Abdullah and the United States, which brokered the peace deal with the 
Taliban to start negotiations with the government, have been pressing for talks 
to be accompanied by a reduction in violence.

   The Taliban have refused.

   "We call on all sides to agree to seriously reduce violence and protect 
civilians from further harm as we aim for a comprehensive and permanent 
ceasefire," Abdullah said.

   Still the violence continues and on Tuesday in Afghanistan's central Day 
Kundi province a roadside bomb killed at least 14 civilians, including five 
children, as they travelled from one district to another, said Afghan Interior 
Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian.

   "Peace is not only an Islamic tenet and duty, but it is also that unique 
historical opportunity that should not be squandered," said Abdullah. "Now that 
the ice has been broken, we all have a role and a responsibility to help it 
move toward fruition and prevent a relapse."

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