BRUSSELS (AP) — Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday he would host a meeting of top Afghan and Pakistani officials this week in Brussels to discuss reconciliation with the Taliban and other issues.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his defense minister, along with Pakistan’s military chief and foreign secretary, will attend Wednesday’s meeting, Kerry said.
“I will be meeting with President Karzai and General (Ashfaq Parvez) Kayani and the civilian foreign minister from Pakistan while I am here,” Kerry told reporters. He said the goal was to advance the peace process “in the simplest most, most cooperative, most cogent way so that we wind up with both Pakistan’s and Afghanistan’s interests being satisfied but most importantly with a peaceful and stable Afghanistan, which is worth the expenditure and the treasure and effort of these last years.”
Reconciliation efforts between the Taliban and Afghanistan promoted by the United States have hit several snags, including the assassination of Karzai’s hand-picked negotiator, which shattered the little trust that existed between his government and Taliban elements that might be willing to talk peace.
At the same time, Karzai has repeatedly said that any reconciliation cannot take place without the involvement of Pakistan, whose security services have close ties to the Taliban.
Afghanistan accused Pakistan earlier this month of placing unacceptable conditions on efforts to bring peace to the country after nearly 12 years of war, the latest in a series of barbed exchanges that has sunk relations between the two neighbors to a new low.
Luring the Taliban to the negotiating table is a key goal of the United States and its allies as they work for a peaceful solution in Afghanistan ahead of the final pullout of foreign combat forces in 20 months.
Afghanistan and its international backers consider Pakistan a critical player in bringing the Taliban and other militant groups into peace talks. Pakistan holds dozens of Taliban prisoners and has been accused of backing the insurgents in an effort to be able to exert influence in Afghanistan after foreign troops.
But in Islamabad, the foreign ministry said Kayani and Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani will attend the Trilateral Core Group Meeting.
“Pakistan has consistently endeavored to facilitate an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process. Pakistan remains committed to continue its positive and constructive role towards a durable peace in Afghanistan,” the statement said.
The Afghan side was less supportive of Pakistan’s role so far, with a Karzai spokesman noting that the Pakistanis have taken no practical steps yet.
“As you know there have been many talks and negotiations between Afghanistan and Pakistan, but I must say unless Pakistan does not act honestly and take practical steps to what they are saying, it will be very difficult to have any progress in the peace process or fight against terrorism and extremism, so we need an honest and practical act by the Pakistanis on all those issues that they are committing and promising,” Karzai spokesman Aimal Faizi said.
Kerry is in Brussels to attend a NATO foreign ministers meeting on Tuesday. He will also meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and various European officials.
Associated Press reporter Rahim Faiez contributed from Kabul