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PublishDate: Tuesday, February 5, 201311:14

Afghan peace talks Pakistan’s urgent priority

Pakistan has been supporting all discussions that may lead to an Afghan-led peace and reconciliation process.

Pakistan treats the Afghan peace process as an “urgent priority”, Ambassador Sherry Rehman said on Monday as the US media reported that mistrust among key players had floundered talks with the Taliban.

“Pakistan looks clearly to an Afghan-led roadmap for reconciliation, understands that this is an urgent priority,” said Pakistan’s envoy to the US, rejecting insinuations that Islamabad was trying to delay the talks.

“Pakistan also has shown support at the highest level for any track of dialogue that the Afghans deem important,” she added.

The US media reported on Monday that Mulla Omar has recently made a surprise offer to share power in a post-war Afghanistan. But “mistrust and confusion” among key players had floundered the peace effort, the report added.

The United States hopes to reach some peaceful arrangement for transfer of power in Afghanistan before withdrawing its forces from the country by 2014.

“Although the Taliban appear more ready to talk than ever before, peace talks remain elusive because of infighting among a rising number of interlocutors,” reported the Associated Press, quoting official sources in Kabul.

The report said that Taliban leaders had contacted representatives from 30 to 40 different countries, but the relationship among the key players — the US, Afghanistan and Pakistan — was “marked by distrust that keeps tugging momentum away from the peace process”.

The report claimed that “finding a path to the negotiating table” was also a main topic in a series of meetings among Afghan, Pakistani and British leaders in London on Monday.

President Karzai recently complained that the West was using the peace talks as a lever against his government. The US media also reported that both Kabul and Washington were also frustrated with Pakistan for not monitoring the activities of Taliban prisoners it released in recent months.

Pakistan counters this allegation by pointing out that it freed the prisoners at the request of the Afghan government and doesn’t have the resources to keep tabs on them.

The US media also reported that Kabul had asked for the release of the Taliban’s former second in command, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, but Washington urged Islamabad not to release him.

But Ambassador Rehman said categorically: “Pakistan has been supporting all discussions that may lead to an Afghan-led peace and reconciliation process.” The Pakistani effort, she added, aimed at strengthening joint efforts to address extremism and advance regional peace and stability.

“US officials also appreciate that Pakistan continues to demonstrate a willingness to cooperate by taking concrete steps that the Afghan High Peace Council asks for,” she said.

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