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Cameron set for talks with Pakistan and Afghanistan

03 February, 2013

LONDON: British Prime Minister David Cameron will meet the leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan this weekend as part of moves to prevent a Taliban resurgence when foreign troops leave, Downing Street said on Saturday.

The premier will dine with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari at his country retreat Chequers in Buckinghamshire, southeast England, on Sunday.

Cameron will then hold the first in-depth top-level talks with both leaders and their key officials on Monday.

"The Prime Minister will host the leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan at Chequers on Sunday and Monday as part of his ongoing efforts to help to strengthen Afghanistan-Pakistan relations, support an Afghan peace and reconciliation process and promote regional peace and stability," a Downing Street spokesperson said.

"For the first time, we will bring together the political and security establishments from both Afghanistan and Pakistan, with foreign ministers, chiefs of army staff, chiefs of intelligence and the chair of the Afghan High Peace Council attending the meeting.

"Discussions are expected to focus on the Afghan-led peace process and how the Pakistanis and international community can support it. We also expect the Afghans and Pakistanis to make further progress on the Strategic Partnership Agreement they committed to in September."

Karzai flew to London on Saturday for a three-day trip, during which time he will also meet Prince Charles. "The talks in this summit will be focused on ways to accelerate peace process in Afghanistan and further strengthen cooperations between Afghanistan and Pakistan in the fight against terrorism and extremism," said a separate statement issued by Karzai's office.

Relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan remain uneasy, despite some recent improvements.

Pakistan, the chief diplomatic backer of the Taliban, when the group was in power before 2001, has been regularly accused by both Kabul and Washington of helping destabilise Afghanistan.

Back in December, Cameron had announced Britain would withdraw 3,800 of the country's 9,000 troops from Afghanistan in 2013, as NATO prepares for a full security handover to Afghan forces at the end of next year.

There are growing concerns that a civil war could erupt as the US-led NATO troops leave the country. Monday's talks will meanwhile be the third trilateral session since summer last year, after meetings in Kabul in July and in New York in September.

"This trilateral process sends a very clear message to the Taliban: now is the time for everyone to participate in a peaceful political process in Afghanistan," the spokesperson added. "As the Prime Minister has set out previously, a stable Afghanistan is not just in the interests of Afghans, but also in the interests of their neighbours and the UK.

"We share the same vision for Afghanistan: a secure, stable and democratic country that never again becomes a haven for international terror.

"We are working together to achieve it and Afghanistan's neighbours have a vital role to play. It is vital not just for the future security of their citizens, but for their prosperity too."

Meetings of the three leaders will spread over more than one session and Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Director General ISI will also participate in the meetings.

As the deadline for withdrawal of NATO and ISAF forces draws near, there is added urgency in the efforts of international community to foster a political settlement between Afghan government led by President Hamid Karzai and Taliban to keep Afghanistan peaceful and stable.

Afghanistan's High Peace Council led by Salahuddin Rabbani has enhanced its role by holding meetings with leadership of countries, which have been playing important part to bring along disparate groups in Afghanistan for permanent political reconciliation.


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