Peace deal over next six months: Karzai, Zardari
KABUL (PAN): Following talks hosted by UK Prime Minister David Cameron in Britain, President Hamid Karzai and his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari on Monday said they would work to reach a peace deal within six months, throwing their weight behind moves for the Taliban to open an office in Doha.
With no Taliban representative at the tripartite talks, the two leaders also urged the rebels to join the reconciliation process in Afghanistan.
"All sides agreed on the urgency of this work and committed themselves to take all necessary measures to achieve the goal of a peace settlement over the next six months," they said in a joint statement issued by Cameron's office.
"They supported the opening of an office in Doha for the purpose of negotiations between the Taliban and the High Peace Council of Afghanistan as part of an Afghan-led peace process," the statement said.
Karzai had previously shunned the idea of a Taliban office in Doha because of fears that it would lead to the Kabul government being frozen out of talks between the United States and the Taliban.
The joint statement also said that the Afghan and Pakistani leaders had agreed arrangements to "strengthen coordination" of the release of Taliban detainees from Pakistani custody.
Cameron appealed directly to the Taliban to join the reconciliation process. "Now is the time for everyone to participate in a peaceful, political process in Afghanistan," he told a news conference after the talks.
Karzai said he hoped in future to have "very close, brotherly and good neighbourly" relations with Pakistan, which has been regularly accused by both Kabul and Washington of helping to destabilise Afghanistan.
Zardari said it was in Islamabad's interests to support the initiative. "Peace in Afghanistan is peace in Pakistan. We feel that we can only survive together," he said. "We cannot change our neighbourhood or our neighbours."
The talks at the UK prime minister's Chequers country retreat north of London is the third round of discussions since Cameron instigated the trilateral process last year.
Foreign ministers, military leaders and intelligence chiefs attended the talks for the first time.
Cameron said "an unprecedented level of co-operation" had been agreed between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Karzai and Zardari said they hoped to sign an agreement strengthening ties on economic and security issues, including trade and border management, later in the year.
Download “Pajhwok” mobile App, on your smartphone to read and access latest news, features, interviews, videos and photos about Afghanistan.