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Latest update : 2011-06-10

Afghan President Hamid Karzai met his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari (centre) on Friday in Islamabad for talks aimed at increasing co-operation on tackling terrorism and renewed efforts to engage the Taliban in peace negotiations.

AFP - The leaders of Pakistan and Afghanistan on Friday vowed to fight the scourge of terrorism and to expand their cooperation to establish peace in the violence-wracked region.

Following talks in Islamabad between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari focused on efforts to broker peace with the Taliban, the leaders emphasised the common nature of their struggle.

Karzai's visit comes weeks after US Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad on May 2, heightening calls within the United States for a peace settlement in Afghanistan allowing American troops to leave.

Relations between Kabul and Islamabad became more tense after the bin Laden raid, which Afghanistan seized on as proof that the "war on terror" would be better fought across the border in Pakistan.

"It is Pakistan's war, we are fighting our own war. These are the people who are killing our children, killing our brothers and sisters," Zardari said in a joint press conference with Karzai, referring to Pakistan's own battle against extremists.

"We support the people and the government of Afghanistan. We support them. We cannot expect peace in the region without peace in Afghanistan," he added.

Karzai said the relationship between the neighbouring countries had improved.

"Twins are as we are, the suffering is the same and the joy will be the same," he said.

"The struggle (to fight terror) is the struggle of all and the victory will be in the interests of all," he added.

Karzai arrived with a delegation of cabinet ministers, security chiefs and members of a peace council.

Former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani, who heads Karzai's High Council for Peace, urged Pakistan to help end the conflict in Afghanistan after talks with pro-Taliban cleric Fazlur Rehman, who heads a prominent Islamic party.

"Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam is an important party and has influence in all of the Afghan Taliban. We want a political solution and are here to seek their support to establish peace in Afghanistan," Rabbani said.

Rehman said his party fully supported a political solution and negotiations with "all stakeholders".

Karzai set up the council last year to seek talks with the Taliban in return for them laying down their arms and accepting the constitution.

The Taliban have rejected peace overtures in public, although some experts believe the death of bin Laden, whom Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar refused to surrender after the September 11, 2001 attacks, could be a spur.

Pakistan was a main ally of the Taliban until it joined the US-led "war on terror" following the attacks on New York and Washington and subsequently started fighting a homegrown Taliban insurgency along the Afghan border.

But its feared intelligence services are thought to maintain links to Afghan insurgents with strongholds on its territory, namely the Haqqani network, one of the staunchest US enemies in Afghanistan, and Afghan Taliban leaders.

Karzai's office said the visit would culminate in a first meeting of an Afghan-Pakistani peace commission, scheduled on Saturday.

On Saturday, he is due to hold talks with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and the joint peace commission will meet before Karzai gives a news conference at around 1:15 pm (0815 GMT).

Fighting between the Taliban and US-led NATO troops in Afghanistan has become deadlier each year since the 2001 invasion, with Washington sending an extra 30,000 American troops onto the battlefield last year in order to deliver a decisive blow.

The 130,000 international troops today in the country are due to start limited withdrawals from July with the Afghan police and army scheduled to take control of security gradually before the end of 2014.

"The protection of the Afghan land and the protection of the Afghan people is the responsibility of the Afghan people. It isn't the responsibility of a foreign country," Karzai said when asked about the withdrawal process.

In Pakistan, more than 4,400 people have been killed in attacks blamed on Taliban and other Islamist extremist networks based in the tribal belt since government troops stormed a radical mosque in Islamabad in 2007.

Few breakthroughs are anticipated in Islamabad, but analysts say both sides will have an opportunity to lay their cards on the table.

US officials say any sustainable deal in Afghanistan needs to bind in the Pakistanis, given the Taliban safe havens on its territory.


Date created : 2011-06-10


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