Pakistan cautions Kabul on Taliban peace hopes

Talks between Afghanistan and Pakistan on the peace process ended with little sign of progress.

Islamabad: Pakistan`s Foreign Minister said on Friday it would be "preposterous" for Afghanistan to expect Islamabad to deliver the Taliban`s leader to the negotiating table, as talks between the two countries on the peace process ended with little sign of progress.

The apparent gridlock shows the difficulties inherent in the process, which the United States is strongly pushing as a way to end the 10-year-old Afghan war and allow it to withdraw its troops by 2014 without the country further descending into chaos.

Pakistan is seen as key to the process because Taliban chief Mullah Omar and other senior commanders are believed to be based in the country, and Islamabad has close historical ties to the group. Analysts say the country can either help the talks or act as a spoiler.

It`s unclear whether Afghanistan has asked Pakistan for direct access to Omar.
But Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who is wrapping up a visit to Pakistan, has called on Islamabad in the past to facilitate contact with the insurgent group`s leaders.

Karzai`s trip to Islamabad was expected to focus on specific steps that Pakistan could take to help with the peace process.

However, Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said her government is still unclear on exactly what Afghanistan wants, and cautioned against Kabul expecting too much in terms of Pakistan providing access to the Taliban`s leaders.

"If you have unrealistic, almost ridiculous expectations, then you don`t have common ground to begin with," said Khar.

Pakistan has always denied that the Taliban leadership is based in the country.

Khar said that any expectation that Pakistan can deliver the Taliban`s chief for talks is "not only unrealistic, but preposterous”.

She spoke following a press conference featuring Karzai, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The leaders held a three-way summit in Islamabad over the past two days.

Bureau Report

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