Join the peace process: UK PM to Taliban



London: UK Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday called on Taliban to join the peace process after he held a high-level peace talks with Afghan and Pakistani Presidents Hamid Karzai and Asif Ali Zardari.

The talks, to discuss peace process and prevent a Taliban resurgence when foreign troops withdraw from the war-torn country in 2014, featured top spy chiefs and military generals of the countries for the first time.

Speaking from his Chequers country retreat near London alongside Karzai and Zardari, Cameron also announced the opening of an office in the Qatari capital of Doha for negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan High Peace Council.

Describing the trilateral summit with the leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan as "an unprecedented level of cooperation", Cameron said "Now is the time for everyone to participate in a peaceful, political process in Afghanistan.

"This should lead to a future where all Afghans can participate peacefully in that country's political process".

The three leaders noted significant progress since they last met in September 2012 and stressed on the importance of maintaining the pace and momentum.

According to a statement issued by the British Prime Minister's office at 10 Downing Street here, President Zardari reiterated that Pakistan would extend "full support to peace and reconciliation" in Afghanistan.

It added: "The Afghan and Pakistani delegations agreed that the quality of dialogue and cooperation had significantly improved.

"Both sides agreed that good neighbourly relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan, that ensured the long term stability of both countries, was of fundamental importance".

They also agreed to "arrangements" to strengthen coordination of Taliban detainee releases from Pakistani custody in support of the peace and reconciliation process.

Both Pakistan and Afghanistan said they looked forward to a joint conference of Afghan and Pakistani Ulema in early March.

The two sides agreed that they wanted to build greater trust and cooperation between their military and security services and agreed concrete steps to deliver this.

"The Afghan and Pakistani chiefs of defence staff and intelligence enjoyed fruitful discussions and agreed on new mechanisms for strengthening co-operation," the statement added.

The talks at Chequers were part of a trilateral process launched last year and followed a private dinner for Zardari and Karzai at the British PM's country retreat in Buckinghamshire, southeast England, last evening.

This is the third round of discussions since Cameron instigated the three-way process in 2012, when the three leaders met in Kabul and New York.

With a NATO troop withdrawal expected in 2014, Karzai has said that he does not want a repeat of the mistakes made when Russia withdrew from Afghanistan a quarter of a century ago, plunging the country into civil war.

PTI