The Afghan government formally protested controversial remarks attributed to the leader of Pakistan, suggesting an interim "neutral" political setup in Kabul could help further U.S.-led efforts to strike a peace deal with the Taliban.
Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Sibghatullah Ahmadi said Tuesday the neighboring country's deputy ambassador in Kabul was summoned to express "grave objection" over Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan's "reckless and "irresponsible" remarks.
Ahmadi said the government "deemed such statements an obvious example of Pakistan's interventional policy and disrespect to the national sovereignty and determination of the people of Afghanistan."
Kabul has long accused Islamabad of sheltering and covertly supporting Taliban insurgents, charges Pakistan rejects.
"The Afghan peace process can only be successful if there is a neutral interim government, which can hold free and transparent elections to be participated by all the stakeholders," the Express Tribune Pakistani newspaper Tuesday quoted Khan as telling a group of journalists in his office.
Khan made similar remarks a week ago when he said that peace was coming to Afghanistan very soon and "a good government" would be in place there to allow "our Afghan brothers" to live in peace. Those comments also had provoked Kabul to summon the Pakistani ambassador and register a strong protest, calling them interference in internal Afghan affairs.
Islamabad takes credit for arranging the ongoing dialogue between the United States and the Taliban to help end the deadly war in Afghanistan. The dialogue meetings are mostly being hosted by Qatar and both sides concluded a preliminary draft agreement in their latest round of 16 days of talks that ended on March 12.
Chief U.S. negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad, however, made clear that a final agreement would be linked to a comprehensive Taliban cease-fire and an intra-Afghan dialogue involving insurgents as well as Afghan government representatives.