British PM in Pakistan for talks after Afghan visit

29th June 2013, Comments 0 comments

British Prime Minister David Cameron arrived in Pakistan on Saturday for talks with President Asif Ali Zardari focussing on the Afghan peace process, officials said.

Cameron made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan earlier in the day, backing talks with the Taliban after his top general said the West missed a chance to strike a peace deal 10 years ago.

"The British Prime Minister has arrived in Islamabad and held talks with the President," a senior Pakistani government official told AFP.

"Regional situation with reference to peace and reconciliation efforts in neighbouring Afghanistan and economic cooperation between Britain and Pakistan and other matters of mutual interests were discussed during the talks," the official said.

During his two-day stay in Islamabad, Cameron will hold "wide-ranging" talks with the top Pakistani leadership, he said.

Another government official said Cameron will also hold talks with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on Sunday.

Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar in a statement said Zardari "emphasised that Pakistan all along has maintained a constructive approach and believes that dialogue and reconciliation was the only war forward towards ensuring durable peace in Afghanistan".

"The president welcomed efforts being made for finding a peaceful solution to the long drawn conflict in Afghanistan. He expressed the hope that the efforts made would also take into account legitimate concerns of all the stakeholders," Babar said.

Cameron visited troops in the southern province of Helmand earlier Saturday and met President Hamid Karzai, as the Afghan government and international powers try to revive peace efforts that recently collapsed in ignominy.

In February, Cameron hosted Zardari and Karzai to agree on a peace roadmap with the Taliban.

A Taliban office in Qatar that opened on June 18 was meant to foster talks but instead triggered a diplomatic bust-up when the insurgents used the title of the "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan" from their 1996-2001 reign.

Karzai, furious that the office was being styled as an embassy for a government-in-exile, broke off bilateral security talks with the Americans and threatened to boycott any peace process altogether.

Only hours after the Qatar office opened, a Taliban rocket attack killed four Americans on the largest military base in Afghanistan. Days later, a suicide squad targeted the presidential palace and a CIA office in the most audacious assault in Kabul in years.

Peace talks with the Taliban were previously anathema to many Western leaders, with Cameron's predecessor Gordon Brown vowing in 2007 that Britain "will not enter into any negotiations with these people".

© 2013 AFP

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