WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday discussed the global coronavirus pandemic and efforts to blunt its spread, the White House and the Pakistani leader’s office said.
The two also discussed the U.S.-led effort to bring peace to Afghanistan, Khan’s office said in a statement distributed by the Pakistani embassy.
Trump and Khan spoke by telephone following talks last week that U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad held with Taliban negotiators in Doha and Pakistani officials in Islamabad on the stalled peace process.
A Feb. 29 U.S.-Taliban deal for a phased U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan called for the opening by March 10 of intra-Afghan negotiations on a settlement to decades of war.
But differences between Kabul and the Taliban over prisoner releases, a feud between Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his main political rival, and a surge in Taliban attacks have stalled the peace initiative, raising concerns it could collapse as the coronavirus spreads.
U.S. officials say Pakistan wields considerable influence over the Taliban by providing the militants with sanctuary on its side of the border and other support. Pakistan denies those allegations.
In his call with Trump, Khan “reaffirmed Pakistan’s support for facilitation of the Afghan peace process and underscored the importance of next steps leading to the earliest commencement of intra-Afghan negotiations,” the Pakistani statement said.
Afghanistan and Pakistan, impoverished countries with poor healthcare systems, are confronting growing cases and deaths from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus. The United States, also fighting rising cases and deaths, last week announced more than $8 million of aid to help Pakistan battle the pandemic.
Trump and Khan “discussed developments in the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and agreed to continue working together on a coordinated response to defeat the virus and minimize its economic impact,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said.
The Pakistani statement said Trump reassured Khan “of U.S. support to Pakistan in the efforts to combat COVID-19 including by making available ventilators as well as in the economic arena.”
Trump, it said, offered to send “the latest rapid testing machine for COVID-19” to Khan after hearing that the Pakistani leader was tested for the disease. Khan was found to be negative, according to Pakistani news reports.
Reporting by Jonathan Landay; Additional reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Leslie Adler
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