Karzai stresses need for Pakistani help in Taliban peace process

Monday 26 August 2013 20.20
Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif shake hands for photographers in Islamabad
Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif shake hands for photographers in Islamabad

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has stressed the need for Pakistan's help in arranging peace talks with the Taliban.

Mr Karzai was speaking after a meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who assured him of his support.

Pakistan backed the Taliban's rise to power in Afghanistan in the mid-1990s.

It is now seen as a crucial gatekeeper in attempts by the US and Afghan governments to contact insurgent leaders who fled to Pakistan in 2001.

Mr Karzai, who has close ties with India, said he had "primarily and with emphasis" asked the Pakistanis to help with reconciliation as most foreign troops prepare to leave Afghanistan by the end of next year.

He wants Pakistan to help arrange contacts between the Taliban and the Afghan High Peace Council, the government body tasked with reconciliation, or release high-ranking Taliban prisoners who might act as interlocutors.

Mr Sharif, who appeared with Mr Karzai to deliver statements after their talks in Islamabad, did not specifically address those requests.

It is unclear whether the Afghan Taliban, in power from 1996 and 2001, will have a role in the next government.

The Taliban, fighting to expel foreign forces and impose Islamist rule, have refused to talk to Mr Karzai, accusing him of being a US puppet.

"For the two countries, the primary concern is lack of security for their citizens and the continued menace of terrorism," said Mr Karzai.

"It is this area that needs to have primary and focused attention from both governments."

Mr Sharif assured him of support and closed his address by listing economic deals the two countries had struck.

"Pakistan (has) strong and sincere support for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. We fully agreed that this process has to be inclusive, Afghan-owned and Afghan-led," he said.