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Karzai urges Pakistan to set up Taliban talks

27 August, 2013

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ISLAMABAD: Afghan President Hamid Karzai urged Pakistan on Monday to help arrange peace talks between his government and the Taliban, then took the rare step of extending his visit.

Karzai came to Islamabad to meet newly elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a bid to overcome a series of public rows that have hampered efforts to end 12 years of war in Afghanistan.

Infuriated by the opening in June of a Taliban office in Qatar, considered a precursor towards talks with US officials, Karzai now wants Pakistan to help open dialogue with the militia.

Karzai said Afghanistan expected Pakistan to provide "opportunities or a platform for talks between the Afghan High Peace Council" – Kabul's official negotiators – and the Taliban.

"We hope with this on top of our agenda we can move forward in bringing stability and peace to both countries," he told reporters.

In the past, the Afghan leader has identified Taliban havens in Pakistan as the main cause of increased violence in his country.

On Monday he acknowledged that the "continued menace of terrorism" was a primary concern for people in Pakistan, where thousands have been killed in the last decade, as well as in Afghanistan.

"It is this area that needs to have primary and focused attention by both governments," Karzai said.

"It is with hope on this that I have come to Pakistan... to advance the course of action together... but also by having a common campaign against extremism, (to) make sure that the two countries are safer and prosperous towards a secure future."

Nawaz wished Afghanistan well in the transition from NATO to Afghan security control and reiterated support for peace and reconciliation to be "Afghan-owned and Afghan-led".

"I assured President Karzai that Pakistan will continue to extend all possible facilitation to the international community's efforts for the realisation of this noble goal," he said.

"I also reaffirmed Pakistan's strong and sincere support for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan."

Later on Monday, Afghan and Pakistani officials told AFP that Karzai had extended his one-day visit in the hope of having fresh talks with Nawaz on Tuesday.

He would spend the night at the Pakistani hill resort of Murree, Pakistani officials said. He extended his trip for another day at Nawaz's request, an official in Karzai's office told AFP. "He was asked to stay by Nawaz Sharif for more talks," he added.

Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry told AFP that Karzai was in Murree and would return to Kabul on Tuesday.

Separately, President Asif Ali Zardari said Pakistan had been extending every possible support for promotion of peace and stability in Afghanistan.

In a meeting with Karzai, Zardari said Pakistan had also been making all-out efforts for intra-Afghan reconciliation because a peaceful, stable and united Afghanistan was in Islamabad's own interest.

Zardari stressed the need for joint efforts and close coordination to cope with evolving situation in the region with focus on the peace process in Afghanistan and the post-withdrawal scenario.

Spokesperson to the President Senator Farhatullah Babar said the two leaders discussed matters pertaining to Pak-Afghan bilateral ties, evolving regional situation, peace process in Afghanistan and other issues of mutual concern.


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