March 16, 2019 / 5:14 PM / 8 days ago

Kabul summons diplomat over remarks by Pakistan's Khan

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan summoned a senior Pakistani diplomat on Saturday to account for remarks by Prime Minister Imran Khan speculating about a new government in Kabul following a possible peace settlement.

FILE PHOTO - A car with a Pakistani flag waits for Pakistani Minister Imran Khan outside the Great Hall of the People during his visit in Beijing, China, November 3, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee

The summons by the Afghan foreign affairs ministry marked the second time in just over three weeks that Kabul has demanded an explanation from Pakistan, illustrating the longstanding tensions between the two neighbours at a sensitive time.

Khan, at a rally in Bajaur, in northwestern Pakistan on Friday, predicted “mutual peace” in Afghanistan as an outcome of recurring talks between the United States and the Taliban to end the country’s 17-year-old war.

“A good government will come in Afghanistan,” Khan said. “I mean a government will come in which all will be represented. War will end and there will be peace.”

The Afghan ministry summoned Pakistan’s counsellor to clarify the remarks, spokesperson Sibghatullah Ahmadi tweeted.

“Afghanistan expressed its grave objection on Pakistan’s government and deemed such remarks a flagrant interference in its internal affairs,” he said.

In February, the ministry summoned Pakistani ambassador Zahid Nasrullah Khan over his remarks that Afghan peace talks could be affected if India resorted to violence against Pakistan.

The summons to Pakistan comes a day after a top official in President Ashraf Ghani’s government voiced frustration about what Kabul regards as Afghanistan being sidelined during talks between Taliban and U.S. negotiators, drawing a rebuke from Washington.

The latest round of peace talks ended on Tuesday, with both U.S. and Taliban officials saying progress was made.

Tensions have been building between Kabul and Washington over U.S. efforts to forge a peace pact with the Taliban that includes a U.S. troop withdrawal, something that Kabul fears could weaken its own negotiating position.

Reporting by Rod Nickel in Kabul and James Mackenzie in Islamabad, Editing by William Maclean

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