Islamabad (dpa) During a visit to Islamabad on Tuesday, Germany’s foreign minister said Pakistan would “play a very important role in the peace process” in Afghanistan.Heiko Maas said that both Germany and Pakistan had a crucial part to play – Germany as the second largest contributor of troops to Afghanistan and Pakistan as its neighbour. Germany contributes up to 1,300 soldiers to NATO’s Resolute Support Mission, which aims to train Afghan security forces amid growing pressure from the Taliban, which controls large swathes of territory in the country. Last summer, the US reversed its long-standing policy of refusing to hold direct talks with the Islamist group. Washington is aiming to clinch a peace deal with the Taliban before the end of June, when Afghans are set to elect a new president.
Maas’ Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi welcomed the change of policy on Tuesday, and said that his country “has been advocating for a very long time that the only way forward is a negotiated peace settlement.” On his first trip to Pakistan as foreign minister, Maas paid tribute to Pakistan’s contribution to the peace effort, saying that the right political steps would strengthen the country’s reputation in the world. Some western countries as well as the government in Kabul accuse the Pakistani intelligence agency of supporting Islamist extremists in the region, thereby destabilizing neighbouring states.