x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Afghan leader Karzai leaves for Brussels peace talks

Afghanistan's president has left for talks in Brussels with top United States and Pakistani officials aimed at reviving faltering efforts to bring peace to his country.

KABUL // Afghanistan's president left today for talks in Brussels with top United States and Pakistani officials aimed at reviving faltering efforts to bring peace to his country.

Hamid Karzai's office said patience was running out with Pakistan, seen by the West as a key player in brokering peace with Taliban insurgents who have been battling the Kabul government and US-led foreign forces since 2001.

John Kerry, the US secretary of state, will host today's talks between Mr Karzai and Pakistan's army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, considered the most powerful man in the country, along with other officials on both sides.

Mr Kerry said on Monday the aim was to "try to talk about how we can advance this process in the simplest, most cooperative, most cogent way" to satisfy Pakistan's and Afghanistan's interests and end up with "a stable and peaceful Afghanistan".

Relations between Islamabad and Kabul, strained for years, appeared to make headway this year but have once again nosedived. The Taliban still refuse in public to negotiate with Mr Karzai's government.

"Pakistan has not taken practical measures towards the Afghan peace process so far. Afghans are running out of patience," said Mr Karzai's spokesman, Aimal Faizi, on Monday.

Afghanistan says Pakistan, which backed the 1996-2001 Taliban regime, continues to support the insurgents to counter the influence of India.

The Pakistani foreign ministry said on Monday it "remains committed to continue its positive and constructive role towards a durable peace in Afghanistan".

Relations had improved between the countries, building up to a three-way summit hosted by Britain in February to try to find an end to the war.

But Mr Faizi last month said Pakistan had now abandoned the peace process and imposed "impossible" preconditions on any further discussions.