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Central & South Asia
Kabul and Islamabad upgrade Taliban peace bid
Pakistani and Afghan leaders announce boost to joint commission and efforts to negotiate with fighters.
Last Modified: 16 Apr 2011 20:24
President Karzai, right, praised Pakistan's decision to accelerate the work of the joint commission [Reuters]

Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan's president, and Yusuf Raza Gilani, the Pakistani prime minister, have vowed to boost joint peace efforts towards Tabliban fighters.

At a news conference in Kabul on Saturday, the two leaders said that a new Afghanistan-Pakistan joint commission is being upgraded to accelerate and promote a peace process.

The commission was originally set up in January to include foreign ministers from the two countries.

Now Gilani and Burhanuddin Rabbani, the former Afghan president, who heads Afghanistan's efforts to reach out to the Taliban, are to bring security chiefs into the joint commission.

Pakistan and Afghanistan share a 2,400km-long border and any solution to the conflict in Afghanistan is said to require the support of Pakistan, and in particular elements of its security forces, suspected of links to fighters in Afghanistan.

The two nations have not always seen eye to eye, but at the press conference Gilani said that any peace process would have to be led by Afghanistan.

"It is for the Afghan nation to determine the parameters on which a reconciliation and peace process would be shaped," he said.

'Unprecedented meeting'

Karzai praised Pakistan's decision to accelerate the work of the joint commission.

"The prime minister's statement was a fundamental departure from our meetings in the past," he said

Alongside Gilani at the Kabul talks were General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Pakistan's army chief, and General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, head of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency.

"Today's visit, I believe has been one of the most historical and unprecedented meetings, because all the stakeholders were with us," Gilani said.

The US, which has found it ties with Afghanistan and Pakistan coming under increasing strain, also backs reconciliation efforts, saying it is willing to negotiate with Taliban members who renounce violence and sever ties with al-Qaeda.

"Is the US on board?" asked Gilani, repeating a reporter's question. "Yes, the US is on board and whatever will be decided will be decided between Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States."

US-backing

Karzai said that he had discussed the move to upgrade the Afghan-Pakistan joint commission with Barack Obama, the US president, during a phone call last week, and reiterated that it had the full backing of Washington.

The US, which spearheaded the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, contributes two-thirds of the nearly 150,000 foreign troops in the country and is preparing to hand over security control to Afghan forces by the end of 2014.

"We welcome the participation of the U.S. in this tripartite arrangement ... We have recently seen more interest by the US in the peace process," Karzai said.

Both Karzai and Gilani said Saudi Arabia and Turkey could be involved in aiding future talks.

Turkey is working to open a political office for the Taliban in Istanbul, which could help facilitate negotiations to end the war, a close aide to the Turkish Prime Minister was quoted as saying on Friday.

Discussions are expected to continue during an upcoming visit by Karzai to Islamabad.

Karzai also used the press conference to reiterate his complaints about the deaths of Afghan civilians in US-led coalition operations in his country.

Source:
Agencies
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