Pak postpones Afghan Peace Conference

Sat 17 Jul 2021, 10:47:43
Islamabad: A three-day conference on peace in Afghanistan, which was to be hosted by Pakistan from Saturday, has been postponed till Eid al-Adha, officials said on Friday, amidst escalating violence in the war-torn country and trading of barbs between Kabul and Islamabad over alleged support to Taliban militants.

The conference was originally scheduled from July 17 to 19 in Islamabad and was to be attended by a number of high-ranking Afghan leaders. Taliban leaders were not invited.

"The Afghan Peace Conference scheduled to be held in Islamabad from 17-19 July 2021 has been postponed until after Eid Al-Adha. The new dates of the said Conference will be announced later,” the Pakistan Foreign Office said in a short statement. This year Eid Al-Adha will be celebrated on July 21.

The cancellation was announced as the Foreign Office in another statement rejected the remarks made by Afghanistan Vice President Amrullah Saleh that the Pakistan Air Force was providing air support to the Taliban militants in the border areas of Chaman and Spin Boldak. Such statements undermine Pakistan's sincere efforts to play its part in an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led solution, the Pakistan Foreign Office said here.

On Thursday, Afghanistan Vice President Saleh tweeted: "Pakistan air force has issued (an) official warning to the Afghan Army and Air Force that any move to dislodge the Taliban from Spin Boldak area will be faced and repelled by the Pakistan Air Force. Pak air force is now providing close air support to Taliban in certain areas." (sic) Fierce fighting has been going on for the last few days between the Afghan forces and the Taliban in Spin Boldak town of Kandahar.

The Taliban militants have seized dozens of districts in recent weeks and are now thought to control about a third of the country, ahead of the complete withdrawal of US and Western troops from Afghanistan by September 11.

Pakistan on Friday said it had accepted a request by the Afghanistan government to carry out air operations close to the border adjacent to its Chaman sector, despite risks and international practice to not allow such operations close to the border.

"Pakistan responded positively to Afghan Government's right to act in its territory. In spite of very close border operations normally not acceded to by internationally accepted norms/standards/procedures, Pakistan took necessary measures within its territory to safeguard our own troops and population," the Foreign Office

said. It said Pakistan in the last week had rescued 40 Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) personnel, who fled war scenes, and they will be sent to Afghanistan with "respect and dignity".

"We remain committed to peace in Afghanistan and shall continue to endeavour towards this end irrespective of the detractors," said the FO.

Meanwhile, in another tweet on Friday, the Afghanistan Vice President dismissed the Pakistan Foreign Office statement. "On Pakistani denial: For over twenty years Pakistan  denied the existence of Quetta Shura or presence of Talib terrorist leaders  in its soil. Those familiar with this pattern, know exactly that issuing a statement of denial is just a pre-written paragraph," Saleh wrote.

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