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High-Level Pakistani Official To Visit Afghanistan For Talks

Pakistani government envoy Sartaj Aziz
Pakistani government envoy Sartaj Aziz
A top Pakistani official will visit Afghanistan in an effort to improve relations between the often-quarreling neighbors.

Pakistani officials said on July 19 that Sartaj Aziz, the Pakistani prime minister's adviser on foreign affairs, will arrive in Kabul on July 21 to hold talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai about the peace process in his country. Earlier, it was announced Aziz would arrive on July 20.

Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry told reporters that the envoy would be "talking about our commitment to support the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan."

"We have said so many times, and we would like to reiterate that in all sincerity, and we do hope that the process of reconciliation will catch momentum because that is the way to peace and stability in Afghanistan," Chaudhry added.

Aziz told the Associated Press news agency that Islamabad has "some influence" but does not control the Afghan Taliban.

Kabul has sought Islamabad's help in pushing Afghan Taliban insurgents hiding on its territory toward peace negotiations.

Chaudhry indicated that the visit could also set the stage for a proposed meeting between the leaders of the two countries.

"[Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif] has already extended [an] invitation to the president of Afghanistan to visit Pakistan," he said. "Mr. Sartaj Aziz will be carrying the formal invitation for the visit."

The visit is the first high-level contact between Afghanistan and Pakistan following the latter's parliamentary elections in May.

Suspicion between the two neighbors runs deep.

Afghanistan blames Pakistan for turning a blind eye, or even supporting the Taliban militants who use sanctuaries in the country's border areas to carry out attacks on Afghans and international forces.

Islamabad alleges that Kabul is sabotaging peace efforts with its provocative statements and blames its security services for supporting the Taliban insurgency.

Pakistan is also suspicious of Afghanistan's growing ties with its regional arch-rival, India.

With reporting by AP, AFP