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US, Afghanistan, Pakistan Press for Taliban Talks

U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman (R), Pakistan's FM Jalil Abbas Jilani (C) and Afghan Deputy FM Jawid Ludin (L) pose for the media before their meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad, April 27, 2012.
U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman (R), Pakistan's FM Jalil Abbas Jilani (C) and Afghan Deputy FM Jawid Ludin (L) pose for the media before their meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad, April 27, 2012.

Afghan, Pakistani and U.S. officials are pushing for the restart of stalled talks with the Taliban in an effort to find a political settlement to the more than 10-year Afghan war.

U.S. Special Representative to Pakistan and Afghanistan Marc Grossman met with Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Jawed Ludin and Pakistani Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani during a trilateral meeting in Islamabad Friday.

The three officials told reporters they will explore ways to arrange safe passage for Taliban leaders who are willing to take part in peace negotiations. Afghan Taliban leaders are widely believed to be based in Pakistan.

Grossman said "the shared goal is to open the door for Afghans to sit down with other Afghans to talk about the future of their country."  But the senior U.S. envoy also emphasized that Taliban insurgents must be willing to break ties with al-Qaida, lay down their arms and abide by Afghanistan's constitution.

Last month, the Afghan Taliban announced it was suspending peace talks with the United States until "the Americans clarify their stance on the issues," including a prisoner swap.  The U.S. was reportedly holding preliminary talks in Qatar with the insurgent group, which has rejected taking part in any negotiations involving the Afghan government.

On Thursday, U.S. Special Representative Grossman held bilateral talks with Pakistan's foreign minister and other officials, during which he called for communication lines between both countries to be reopened.

U.S.-Pakistan relations plunged to a new low after a cross-border coalition attack mistakenly killed 24 Pakistani troops last November.  Pakistan subsequently shut down the ground supply route to international troops in neighboring Afghanistan and ordered a parliamentary review of rules of engagement with the United States.

Grossman told reporters Thursday the U.S. is ready for talks on re-opening the supply lines and that "the task now is to begin a conversation about how to move forward."

Foreign Secretary Jilani said Thursday the arrangement with regard to the NATO supplies would no longer be valid and that the countries must work out a new agreement.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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