Leaders say Pakistan, Afghanistan committed to Afghan peace process

Oct. 30, 2013 at 6:54 AM
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LONDON, Oct. 30 (UPI) -- Leaders of Pakistan and Afghanistan joined British Prime Minister David Cameron in London in reaffirming their commitment to the Afghan peace process.

At their trilateral meeting with Cameron, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Afghan President Hamid Karzai spoke of their countries' shared interest in advancing regional peace, stability and prosperity, the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan reported. The Pakistani and Afghan leaders were in London to attend the World Islamic Economic Forum.

The Wall Street Journal said Sharif and Karzai were also keen to improve their bilateral ties, which have soured due to numerous cross-border clashes.

The report, quoting diplomats involved in the talks, said Sharif said he would provide facilities so 3 million Afghan refugees, most of them ethnic Pashtuns, living in Pakistan would be able to vote in next April's Afghan presidential election. Their votes would be welcomed by Pashtun candidates close to Karzai.

In the trilateral talks, the three leaders also "discussed economic cooperation and the Afghan-led peace process, to which they all reaffirmed their continuing commitment," said a spokesman for the office of the British prime minister.

The trilateral meeting is seen as crucial, coming as the United States and NATO forces are scheduled to end their combat operations in Afghanistan by the end of next year. Any improvement in Afghanistan-Pakistan ties should ease concerns about violence and instability escalating in the already tense region after the coalition forces leave.

The issue is complicated as Pakistan's tribal regions near the border with Afghanistan are reportedly used by the Afghan Taliban as a recruiting base allegedly with the help of some Pakistani officials. Similarly, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, the Pakistani Taliban which differ from the Afghan Taliban but are affiliated with al-Qaida, are seen as eyeing Afghanistan's mountainous border areas as a haven, planning to use them after the foreign troops leave.

Karzai's government has maintained Pakistan's help is essential to bring the Afghan Taliban to the peace process. However, Pakistan has denied it has any control over the militant group. The Taliban have so far refused to engage with the Karzai government.

The hope is Sharif, who is attending his first trilateral meeting after being elected in May, would be able to mend ties with Afghanistan.

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