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Afghan President Ghani Says He'll Visit Pakistan On June 27


Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani says he will visit Pakistan on June 27 in an effort to improve bilateral relations that are often hampered by mistrust and reciprocal accusations.

Ghani said on June 4 that the visit was agreed on after he met Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan last week on the sidelines of a meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Saudi Arabia.

"I hope the visit will be positive," Ghani said in his message to mark Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday that ends the holy month of Ramadan.

Kabul has been long accused Pakistan of harboring Taliban militants who launch attacks inside Afghanistan, but Ghani said he was hopeful that years of mistrust can be replaced by mutual trust and cooperation toward peace.

Pakistan has offered support to U.S. efforts to broker an end to Afghanistan's almost 18-year-long war.

Last week, Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. envoy seeking a peace deal with the Taliban, held talks in Islamabad with senior Pakistani officials, including Khan and army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa.

Pakistan has recently offered support to U.S. efforts to broker an end to Afghanistan's almost 18-year-long war.

Khalilzad has held several rounds of talks with the militants in Qatar. The sides have made progress, but the Taliban has so far rejected direct negotiations with Kabul.

During his June 4 address to the nation, Ghani also pledged to release 887 inmates from prisons across Afghanistan.

The Afghan president did not say whether the prisoners included Taliban militants.

In April, Ghani said he would release Taliban prisoners as a gesture of "goodwill."

Ghani had proposed a nationwide cease-fire at the start of Ramadan, but the militant group rejected the offer.

With reporting by AP and AFP