Kabul: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani today saluted neighbouring Pakistan's cooperation as Kabul seeks to lay the groundwork for peace with Taliban insurgents, the latest sign of improving ties between the two nations.
Afghanistan "appreciates Pakistan's recent efforts in paving the ground for peace and reconciliation", Ghani said in a statement. "We welcome the recent position Pakistan has taken in pronouncing Afghanistan's enemy as Pakistan's."
He cited two major recent attacks as helping to bring the countries closer together -- one in Yahya Khel in Afghanistan in November that left nearly 50 people dead, and a Taliban massacre at a school in the Pakistan city of Peshawar in December that killed 153, mostly children.
Ghani's statement came after a top Pakistani minister said yesterday that relations between the two countries had never been better. "I think Afghanistan and Pakistan, working in close hands and in close cooperation, it will do wonders for the cooperation in the field of counterterrorism," Pakistani Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan said as he met with top US diplomat John Kerry in Washington.
"Relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have never been better, and that is a very, very positive development." Ghani also spoke after Taliban commanders said the militants would soon restart contacts with US officials in Qatar to try to get peace talks on track after more than 13 years of war in Afghanistan. The US and the Taliban central spokesman later denied the claims, however.
There have been several attempts at starting dialogue in recent years between the Taliban, Kabul and the US- the Afghan government's chief supporter- but with little success.
Last year's election of Ghani, who pledged to make peace talks a priority, as well as supportive signals from Pakistan, which has long held significant influence with the Taliban, has however boosted hopes for possible dialogue.
"Ghani has done good work to promote a dialogue for peace," one Taliban commander said. Another said his recent talks with tribal chiefs had led to progress.
Ghani however said in his statement that "there are obviously elements opposing the peace process by spreading false information to cause public confusion and anxiety".