Pakistan Prime Minister to Visit Afghanistan to Push Peace Efforts

Thursday, 28 Nov 2013 09:04 AM


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ISLAMABAD — Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will visit Kabul Saturday to meet President Hamid Karzai as part of efforts to revive Afghanistan's faltering peace process.

The one-day visit, confirmed by Pakistan's foreign ministry, comes a week after Sharif met a delegation from the Afghan High Peace Council, which is tasked with opening negotiations with Taliban insurgents as NATO forces withdraw from the country by the end of 2014.

Karzai is stalling on signing a security pact with Washington that would allow a contingent of US troops to stay on for training and counter-terror missions.

Support from Pakistan, which backed Afghanistan's 1996-2001 Taliban regime, is seen as crucial to peace after NATO troops depart, but relations between the two nations have been uneasy.

Pakistan said it had released former Taliban number two Mullah Baradar — seen by Kabul as important to bringing the militants to the negotiating table — to help the peace process.

But militant sources have complained he is effectively still behind bars.

There has been no confirmation that the High Peace Council was able to meet him during its visit last week.

It will be Sharif's first visit to Afghanistan since he took office in May for a third term as prime minister.

"He will meet with President Karzai and will discuss issues of mutual interest. Both the leaders will discuss the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan," said Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, a foreign ministry spokesman.

The Taliban have refused to have direct contact with Karzai or with the High Peace Council, dismissing them as puppets of the United States.

A Taliban office in Qatar that opened in June was meant to lead to talks, but instead it enraged Karzai after it was styled as an embassy for a government-in-exile.

Karzai and Sharif met British Prime Minister David Cameron in London last month in the fourth of a series of trilateral meetings designed to foster stability in the volatile South Asia region.

The meeting was considerably more low-key than one hosted by Cameron at his official country retreat in February, which ended with grand promises of a peace deal within six months.

© AFP 2014

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