Karzai, Zardari pledge peace in region

Feb. 4, 2013 at 11:15 PM
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LONDON, Feb. 4 (UPI) -- The presidents of Pakistan and Afghanistan, in their talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron, pledged to achieve a peace settlement in six months.

Pakistan's Asif Ali Zardari and Afghanistan's Hamid Karzai, who met in London Monday for their trilateral summit with Cameron, said in a joint statement, "All sides agreed on the urgency of this work and committed themselves to take all necessary measures to achieve the goal of a peace settlement over the next six months."

The leaders of the two neighbors were also accompanied by their countries' respective military leaders, foreign ministers and intelligence chiefs. Cameron hosted the talks in an effort to ease the distrust between Afghanistan and Pakistan and help move forward Afghanistan's peace process with Taliban insurgents with the cooperation of Islamabad.

Pakistan, which has been accused of harboring the insurgents to promote its influence in Afghanistan after NATO and U.S. troops complete their withdrawal in 2014, has already released several Taliban detainees from its custody to show its cooperation in the process.

Karzai and Zardari, along with Cameron, expressed support for opening an office in Doha, capital of Qatar, for negotiations between the Taliban and Afghanistan's High Peace Council and urged the Taliban to enter the dialogue.

The state-run Associated Press of Pakistan quoted Zardari as saying Pakistan would extend full support to peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. Zardari and Karzai also reaffirmed their commitments of Sept. 26, 2012, on a strategic partnership agreement.

Britain's Daily Telegraph said it was the first time when the three leaders were joined by their foreign ministers, defense and intelligence chiefs and the chairman of the Afghan High Peace Council.

Cameron was quoted as saying Karzai and Zardari had agreed to "an unprecedented level of cooperation" and their agreement should send a clear message to the Taliban.

A British official told the newspaper, "We don't underestimate how much there is to do and we recognize it will be tough but there was a good atmosphere today."

Muhammad Amir Rana with the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies told the Telegraph that while the meeting sought to bring some urgency to the peace effort, the Taliban can afford to wait until 2014 to decide what it needs to do.

"They think their bargaining power will only increase," he said, but added the meeting made progress in improving relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

John Bew with the war studies department at King's College London told the newspaper: "There are many reasons to be skeptical that this will work. But if you are going to give this one last try it may help to have a timetable and it will help to have as many of the key players on board as possible -- this hasn't been the case before."

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