November 3, 2011 2:02:15 am
Afghan President Hamid Karzai pressed Pakistan on Wednesday to help his country negotiate with the Taliban,despite a series of high-profile assassinations and attacks that have diminished peace prospects and intensified suspicions that Islamabad supports and shelters the militants.
Karzais appeal came in Istanbul during a one-day conference on Afghanistan that drew regional players as well as Western powers. The gathering underscored how much is left to do in Afghanistan as international combat forces prepare to leave by the end of 2014.
Karzai said a peace process cannot succeed without the participation of the top leadership of the Taliban,which he alleged was based in Pakistan.
Our hope is that,with help from our brothers in Pakistan,we will manage to wean away the Taliban leadership from some of the long-established networks of support they enjoy outside Afghanistan and integrate them into the peace process, the Afghan leader said.
Pakistan denies that the Afghan Talibans top leaders are based on its territory. It has bristled at US and Afghan accusations it plays a double game,fighting some militant groups while supporting others it views as potential useful proxies in future conflicts with archrival India.
But the September 20 assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani,a former president and leader of the Afghan High Peace Council,as well as other high-profile attacks in Afghanistan,some ascribed to the Haqqani network,a militant group with bases in Pakistan,have added to concerns about Islamabads loyalties.
On Tuesday,Karzai and his Pakistani counterpart,Asif Ali Zardari,discussed a joint inquiry into Rabbanis killing. But since the Pakistani army has far more sway over foreign policy than Zardaris weak government,its unclear how much the Pakistan president can accomplish.
In a statement,the Afghan High Peace Council said,It is time that our neighbouring countries stop their interference,and rather than increasing violence in Afghanistan,allow the Afghan people to live in peace. Delegates delivered speeches promising support for Afghan sovereignty,and endorsed a transition to Afghan security leadership,efforts for a political solution to the war and economic development.
China,India and Iran sent envoys to the conference.
US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns cited a recent Kabul attack that killed 17 people,including Americans,as an example of US sacrifice in Afghanistan.
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