The European Union’s Special Envoy (Acting) for Afghanistan, Tomas Niklasson, who wrapped up his three-day visit to Pakistan has said that Pakistan and the EU support a political settlement in Afghanistan. Niklasson visited Pakistan at a time when concerns are fast growing about the possible chaos in Afghanistan in the wake of lack of progress in intra-Afghan negotiations and rise in violence. American special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has been involved in talks with the Taliban in Qatar over the past one week to end the stalemate in negotiations but there is no progress, according to sources in Qatar. The Taliban are demanding release of remaining prisoners and delisting of leaders in accordance with the Doha agreement. The Afghan government has refused to free more Taliban prisoners unless there is progress in the peace talks that had started in September last year. “Release of our remaining prisoners and lifting of sanctions on the Taliban leaders could be an icebreaking,” a Taliban leader said. Talks between the EU representatives and Pakistani officials focused on ways to encourage the Taliban and the Afghan government to make the negotiations meaningful. The EU office in Islamabad that Niklasson underlined the EU’s commitment to the Afghan Peace Process and continued engagement with regional partners as he concluded his first official visit to Pakistan on Thursday, the EU office in Islamabad said. The EU’s Special Envoy praised Pakistan’s efforts for regional peace and stability, according to the statement. “The situation in Afghanistan will have a lasting impact on regional peace and security. My meetings reaffirmed the position of both the EU and Pakistan, that only a political settlement through inclusive dialogue, offers hope for durable peace. On several occasions, the EU and Pakistan have called on all parties to strive towards the elimination of violence as a genuine commitment to peace and reconciliation. The European Union will make every effort to support the peace process, which should protect and strengthen progress on human rights and fundamental freedoms of all Afghans, with special relevance to women and girls, laying the foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and democratic Afghanistan.” During the three-day visit, Special Envoy Niklasson held meetings with both civil and military leadership including Pakistan’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Mohammad Sadiq, MoFA Director General (Iran/Afghanistan/Turkey) Asif H. Memon, Chief of General Staff Lt. General Sahir Shamshad Mirza and Deputy Director General ISI General Tabassum Habib. During the meetings, the EU and Pakistan reiterated their strong support for an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process and the need for all stakeholders to work towards achieving lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region. The continuation of conflict would further exacerbate the already significant security challenges in the region, while peace and a continued socio-economic development in Afghanistan would considerably increase the potential of regional integration and connectivity. The Special Envoy also met with several ambassadors to Pakistan, including from the European Union Member States, members of think tanks and local and international journalists during his visit. Taliban toughen position on Istanbul conference The Taliban, who had earlier attached conditions to the Istanbul conference on Afghan peace process, say that Turkey’s question for keeping troops has further “diminished” the chances for the event. Reports suggest Turkey has agreed to keep its troops for security of the Kabul international airport after the pull out of foreign troops that has annoyed the Taliban. The United States had proposed a meeting between the Taliban and the Afghan government under the supervision of the United Nations and with the involvement of regional stakeholders to push the peace process forward. The conference was postponed twice after the Taliban refused to attend following the US announcement to extend the stay of their troops beyond the May 1st deadline in the Doha agreement. The Taliban later put some conditions that the conference will not make any decision, it will be short, there will be no specific agenda and the Taliban’s participation would be at a lower level. Now the Taliban are angry at Turkey’s willingness to keep its troops for the security of Hamid Karzai’s International Airport Kabul.