Afghanistan seeks Pakistani help to restart stalled peace talks


Islamabad: December 9, 2015. (Reuter) Afghanistan's foreign minister called on Pakistan to help restart stalled peace talks between his government and the Taliban, as he spoke at a conference on Wednesday that risked being overshadowed by a major Tal

The "Heart of Asia" meeting, an annual gathering of countries to pledge support to Afghanistan, being held this year in Pakistan, comes months after the first, inconclusive talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani said he hoped to see "positive moves in the coming weeks" regarding peace talks. "We very much hope that Pakistan can play a very influential role and very important role in the peace and reconciliation process," he told a news conference in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif stressed his commitment to "an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process", a reference to the talks, hosted by Pakistan, that foundered in July after news leaked that Taliban founder Mullah Mohammad Omar had been dead for two years. Omar's deputy, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, took over as leader but violent splits have emerged in the militant group, dimming prospects for negotiations while Mansour seeks to consolidate his position, analysts say. Hopes for a resumption of the talks appeared even more remote after Afghan security forces struggled against a Taliban attack at the airport in the southern city of Kandahar that began on Tuesday evening and lasted until Wednesday afternoon. At least 37 people were killed, Afghan officials said. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken, also at the two-day conference, said, "There is no time frame (for talks to restart), but there is a sense of determination to try to move forward and get the right people around on the same table." Cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan is essential to ending the insurgency by the Afghan Taliban, who have bases on both sides of the countries' porous border. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani came to power last year vowing to improve relations but ties cooled after of a series of bomb attacks in Kabul this August. Ghani blamed "regional and international terror groups" for the violence in his country. "In the past, there has been the temptation to use non-state actors as instruments of foreign policy," he told the conference, a clear reference to Afghan assertions that Pakistan supports the Taliban to maintain influence in Afghanistan and block the influence of its rival, India. Afghanistan and Pakistan accuse each other of supporting insurgencies across their border, which they both deny. The Afghan and Pakistani Taliban are separate but allied.

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