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Afghanistan Reconciliation: Nawaz tells US to walk hand in hand

26 June, 2013

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif holds a high level meeting with the US special representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan James Dobbi
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ISLAMABAD: Noting that the situation in Afghanistan had reached a crucial phase as the US proceeds with its drawdown, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif stressed the need for Pakistan and the United States to remain closely engaged.

US envoy James Dobbins arrived in Islamabad on Tuesday for talks with Prime Minister Nawaz and other senior officials on efforts to open peace talks with Afghan Taliban, the premier's office said. Dobbins, who flew in from Kabul, met Nawaz and briefed him on developments relating to Afghanistan, the office said in a statement.

"The prime minister conveyed to Ambassador Dobbins that Pakistan had the highest stakes in the return of peace and stability to Afghanistan," it said. "He assured Mr Dobbins of Pakistan's full commitment to an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process and highlighted various steps Pakistan had taken in the regard," it said.

Other Pakistani officials said the meetings of Dobbins, the US special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, will focus on "efforts to promote an Afghan-led reconciliation process". The US embassy in a statement said that Dobbins expressed "great appreciation" for the role Pakistan has played in supporting and helping advance the peace process, it said.

"Ambassador Dobbins reiterated the United States' commitment to working with the new democratically-elected government of Pakistan to build a strong, mutually beneficial bilateral relationship." The Afghan Taliban opened an office in Qatar last Tuesday in a step towards talks as the US-led NATO combat mission prepares to leave Afghanistan in 2014 despite a resilient Taliban insurgency 12 years after they were ousted following the 9/11 attacks. But Afghan President Hamid Karzai reacted furiously to the office being styled as a Taliban government-in-exile under the rebels' white flag and using the formal name of the "Islamic Emirate Of Afghanistan".

Kabul, which says it is committed to the peace process, insisted that the Qatar office be used for only direct negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government. In Kabul on Monday, Dobbins said Washington had been "outraged" at the manner in which the Taliban opened the office, saying it was "inconsistent" with assurances the United States had given and received. Some experts have suggested that Pakistan likely played a key role in persuading a reluctant Taliban to consider tentative peace talks with its American and Afghan government foes.

Western capitals believe that Pakistan can play a crucial role in helping to get the Taliban to the negotiating table as it was one of only three countries to recognise its 1996-2001 regime in Kabul. The US Tuesday acknowledged Pakistan's "supportive role" in the peace talks with the Taliban and said it wants the process to succeed. Ambassador Dobbins said the country's leadership has extended support to the Afghan peace process. Dobbins, who earlier in the day held in-depth talks with Prime Minister Nawaz, Foreign Secretary Jalil A Jilani and Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, said Pakistani leaders evinced interest in the progress made so far.

Talking to reporters at the US embassy he said Pakistan expressed its commitment to continue its support and to use its influence in the process. He said the United States appreciated the support as both the countries desire peace in the region. To a question Dobbins said, "I don't think anybody controls the Taliban, but I think Pakistan probably has the greatest influence."

Elaborating, he said he believes Pakistan does not have a controlling influence on the Taliban, but enjoys more influence than others. Referring to the post 2014 situation, the US special representative said his country would continue to work with Pakistan and count on it to contribute to the civility in Afghanistan.


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