Afghan officials in Pakistan to discuss peace efforts

AP News
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Posted: Aug 13, 2015 12:27 PM
Afghan officials in Pakistan to discuss peace efforts

ISLAMABAD (AP) — A high-level Afghan delegation arrived in Pakistan on Thursday to discuss security cooperation and peace efforts after Afghanistan's president said Pakistan was involved in a spate of devastating Taliban attacks that rocked Kabul last week, killing dozens of people.

Pakistan has expressed hope the visit can help revive peace talks with the Taliban, which were suspended after last month's announcement of the death of longtime Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar.

The Afghan delegation, which is headed by Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani, met with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif after arriving in Islamabad, said Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Qazi Khalilullah.

Ghani's deputy spokesman Zafar Hashemi said the delegation includes national intelligence chief Rahmatullah Nabil and Acting Defense Minister Masoom Stanekzai. It was not clear if Rabbani would also meet with Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who is also currently visiting Islamabad.

"The Afghan government wants Pakistan to take action against those groups ... (who are) declaring war against Afghan people," Hashemi said in Kabul.

Ghani this week accused neighboring Pakistan of failing to take action against "suicide training camps and bomb-making facilities" on its territory used for attacks inside Afghanistan.

Pakistan, which denies supporting the Taliban, on Thursday offered condolences for the victims of the Kabul attacks and reiterated its desire to maintain good relations with Afghanistan. It promised to keep backing the peace process between Kabul and the Taliban.

Sharif's adviser on national security and foreign affairs, Sartaj Aziz, said the two sides "should have trust and faith in each other and discourage spoilers and detractors who have been trying to create mistrust between the two brotherly countries," according to a foreign ministry statement.

The statement said the two sides "agreed to maintain close contact to promote bilateral cooperation, address all issues of common concern, and evolve a strategic consensus to respond to the security challenges of the region."

Iran's foreign minister also expressed support for the peace talks.

"Iran is very much supportive of peace (and) security cooperation both between Pakistan and Afghanistan and in the region in general and inside Afghanistan," Zarif told reporters.

The Afghan intelligence service announced last month that Mullah Omar died in April 2013. The Taliban confirmed the death and pulled out of a second round of formal talks with Kabul. The first round of talks was held in Pakistan earlier in July.

The selection of Mullah Akhtar Mansoor as Mullah Omar's successor is meanwhile believed to have widened a rift within the Taliban between those who favor peace talks and those who want to continue the 14-year insurgency.

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O'Donnell reported from Kabul, Afghanistan.