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Afghan president ‘accepts invitation’ to meet PM Nawaz

ISLAMABAD: As formal diplomacy failed to break the impasse in Pakistan-Afghanistan relations, Pakistani Pashtun political leaders have convinced Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to meet Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Afghan media reported on Saturday.
Relations between the two neighbours hit the lowest ebb after Kabul blamed Islamabad for an upsurge in Taliban violence that followed a bitter leadership row in the orthodox militia triggered by the confirmation of the death of its longtime leader Mullah Omar in July, this year.
A delegation of Pakistani Pashtun political leaders currently visiting Kabul met the Afghan leader on Thursday at the presidential palace in Kabul and persuaded him to meet Premier Nawaz in an attempt to put the acrimonious relationship between the two countries back on track.
The delegation discussed bilateral relations, and peace and security in the region, according to private Pajhwok news agency. “President Ghani has accepted the invitation to meet Nawaz Sharif,” it quoted an unnamed official as saying.
The delegation comprises Awami National Party President Asfandyar Wali, Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai and Qaumi Wattan Party leader Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao. Former Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa governor Shaukatullah Khan and former ambassador Ayaz Wazir are also accompanying them. Though there is no official word on when and where the two leaders will meet, there are indications the meeting might take place in Paris on the on the sidelines of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP 21 or CMP 11. The conference will begin on November 30 and continue until December 11.
Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said he has no knowledge of any scheduled meeting between Ghani and Nawaz. “No such meeting was scheduled until the departure of our delegation from Islamabad,” Qazi Khalilullah told media when asked about the Afghan media reports.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who is currently in Malta for the Commonwealth Summit, will attend the opening ceremony of the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris on Monday, according to Minister for Climate Change Zahid Hamid.
The Afghan media reports came after China’s ambassador in Kabul reportedly conveyed a message from the Chinese leadership to the Afghan government, advising President Ghani to attend the ministerial meeting of the Heart of Asia–Istanbul Process in Islamabad on December 8. Ghani had attended the group’s last meeting in Beijing in 2014. The conference will focus on peace and economic development in Afghanistan.
The Chinese special envoy for Afghanistan Deng Xijun told media earlier this month that Beijing wanted Pakistan and Afghanistan to sit down and remove bilateral differences through talks. Deng met the Pakistani and Afghan leaders during his first visit to both the countries.
Pajhwok reported that earlier there was a proposal from British Prime Minister David Cameron that Nawaz and Ghani meet in Paris, however, the latter did not agree. “Consequently, Pakistan has sent the Pashtun leaders to Kabul to persuade Ghani [for the meeting],” according to the report.
The delegation of Pashtun leaders met President Ghani, his predecessor Hamid Karzai and other Afghan officials, and participated in a reference in the memory of veteran Pashtun nationalist leader Afzal Khan Lala, who passed away earlier this month in his hometown of Swat. Asfandyar had met Premier Nawaz before leaving for Kabul on Thursday.

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