Pakistan vows to support not lead Afghan peace drive

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 22, 2012 11:19 AM
Pakistan vows to support not lead Afghan peace drive

LONDON (Reuters) - Pakistan will give its full support to any clear effort by the Afghan government to achieve a political settlement with the Taliban but does not want to lead a peace process that would impose a solution, its foreign minister said on Wednesday.

Hina Rabbani Khar said Afghans were tired of attempts by other countries to take charge of their affairs and, for the good of future bilateral ties, Pakistan should not be seen to be interfering too closely.

"We will support any (peace efforts) that are Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-driven. This is our first and last pre-requisite," Khar said in a speech at Chatham House, an international relations think tank in London.

"But we will not lead. We cannot lead ... We will only follow what our Afghan brothers and sisters decide is the course of action they will adopt," she said.

Khar added that as long as that condition was met, Pakistan would not block any effort by any nation to assist the Afghan government in achieving a political settlement to end war in Afghanistan.

In a statement on Tuesday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai asked Pakistan "to support and facilitate our direct negotiation efforts as part of the peace process".

"Pakistan's support to the peace process will be crucial to its success, as well as a significant contribution to the security and stability of Afghanistan and the entire region," Karzai said.

Pakistan has consistently said it wanted peace in Afghanistan, but Afghans have long been suspicious of Pakistani intentions because of historical ties between Pakistani intelligence and insurgent groups such as the Afghan Taliban.

The Afghan government wants access to certain Taliban leaders whom it believes are based in Pakistan, but Islamabad has always denied giving sanctuary to insurgents.

The Afghan Taliban announced last month it would open a political office in Qatar, suggesting it may be willing to use that as a tool in future negotiations.

Karzai has said he agreed with the idea of opening a Taliban office in Qatar.

After a period of greater strain than usual, relations between Kabul and Islamabad have improved.

Khar said Afghans had to decide for themselves what was the best course of action to achieve peace in their country. Peace was in Pakistan's national interest but there should be only "one centre of gravity" in the effort to attain it and that should be an Afghan-led process, she said.

(Reporting by Estelle Shirbon; Editing by Alison Williams)