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US seeks to ease Pak-Afghan tensions

25 April, 2013

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BRUSSELS: US Secretary of State John Kerry tried to get Afghanistan and Pakistan on the same page Wednesday, ending their mistrust so they could work together as NATO prepares for its Afghan withdrawal next year.

After more than three hours of talks in Brussels, Kerry said he had made progress with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistan armed forces chief Ashfaq Kayani. But all sides still had "some very specific homework to do," he said, declining to give specific details so as not "to raise expectations or make any kind of promises that can not be delivered. As the talks closed Wednesday, neither Karzai or Kayani made any comment.

Kerry cautioned that any results of the Brussels talks would have to be measured in improving relations as NATO winds down its Afghanistan mission. "We have all agreed that results are what will tell the story, not statements at a press conference," he said.

The three parties would "continue a very specific dialogue on both the political track as well as the security track. "We have a commitment to do that in the interests of Afghanistan, Pakistan and peace in the region," he added. The US government sees Pakistan as a key player in brokering peace with Taliban insurgents who have been battling the Kabul government and US-led NATO forces since 2001.

Relations between Islamabad and Kabul, however, have been strained for years and Karzai has accused Pakistan of aiding the Taliban who seek refuge along their rugged border. Signs earlier this year of an improvement in relations have faded amid disagreements between the two over how to promote peace efforts by bringing the Taliban on board.

Afghanistan says Pakistan, which backed the 1996-2001 Taliban regime, continues to support the insurgents to counter the influence of arch-rival India. Washington for its part has pushed the trilateral discussions since 2009 in an effort to ease such suspicions but they are deep-seated. Pakistan strongly rejects the charge it helps the Taliban.

End.

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