Published : 2013-08-26 20:31
Updated : 2013-08-26 20:31
ISLAMABAD (AP) ― Afghanistan’s president flew to neighboring Pakistan on Monday to discuss peace talks with the Afghan Taliban, but expectations were low in both countries that much progress will be made in jumpstarting the negotiations.
Pakistan is seen as key to the process because of its strong historical ties with the Taliban. But Pakistan and Afghanistan have long had troubled relations and view each other with suspicion, especially because Kabul has repeatedly accused Islamabad of providing sanctuary for the insurgents.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai was met at the airport in Islamabad by Sartaj Aziz, the Pakistani prime minister’s adviser on national security and foreign affairs. Young children handed the Afghan president bouquets of flowers as he exited his airplane.
The diplomatic niceties were tempered by realism about what could be accomplished during the visit, Karzai’s first since Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif took office in June.
Karzai said in Kabul on Saturday that the main purpose of his trip was to discuss Taliban peace talks. He indicated that previous visits to Pakistan hadn’t helped improve security in Afghanistan, but “we must continue our efforts.”
“I am not confident, but I am hopeful,” Karzai said about prospects for progress during the visit.
An editorial in Pakistan’s main English language newspaper, Dawn, was equally dubious about the two countries getting the “tattered” reconciliation process back on track.
“Hope for the best, but prepare for continuation of the status quo ― that may be the best approach as President Karzai arrives in Islamabad,” the editorial said.
Karzai’s visit comes after an attempt to jumpstart peace talks in the Qatari capital of Doha foundered in June. The Afghan president pulled the plug on the talks even before they began because he was angered the group marked the opening of its Doha political office with the flag, anthem and symbols of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan -- the group’s name when they ruled the country.
The Taliban have held secret talks with Karzai’s representatives to try to restart the peace process, Afghan officials and a senior Taliban representative recently told the Associated Press. But it‘s unclear if they have made any headway.