The leaders of Britain, Afghanistan and Pakistan have met for private dinner near London at the start of a two-day summit aimed at improving the tense relationship between the South Asian neighbors.
British Prime Minister David Cameron hosted Sunday's dinner for Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari at his countryside estate of Chequers. The talks were due to resume in London on Monday.
It is the third meeting between the three leaders since they started a series of summits last July in Kabul, followed by New York in September. But, the London summit is the first to involve senior military and intelligence officials of Afghanistan and Pakistan in addition to the political leaders.
Britain wants the two neighbors to work together to promote regional stability as it prepares to withdraw thousands of troops from Afghanistan by the end of next year. The British troops have been fighting a years-long Taliban insurgency as part of a NATO mission aimed at helping Afghan security forces take security control of their country.
Afghan presidential spokesman Aimal Faizi told VOA that the Afghan and Pakistani military and intelligence officials met informally on Sunday ahead of the summit. Faizi said summit participants will discuss how to promote a fledgling Afghan peace process in which President Karzai has proposed holding talks with Taliban militants to end the insurgency.
Faizi said Afghanistan wants to ensure that Pakistan plays a constructive role in the peace process. Kabul has long accused Islamabad of providing a safe haven to Taliban fighters who cross into Afghanistan to carry out attacks. Pakistan denies the charge.
Pakistan freed about 20 Taliban prisoners in recent months to enable them to represent the Islamist group in negotiations. An Afghan High Peace Council created by Karzai had requested the prisoner releases. But, the whereabouts of some of those former prisoners is unknown.
The Taliban has been trying to set up an office in Qatar to provide an address from which to conduct peace talks. Karzai's spokesman said Afghanistan will not deal with such an office if the Taliban uses it for anything other than negotiations, or if it comes under the influence of "any other country." He said any groups involved in peace talks with the Afghan government also must respect the Afghan constitution.
In the latest violence in Afghanistan, authorities said a roadside bomb struck a civilian car in the southern province of Helmand late Saturday, killing a family of four and their driver. Roadside bombs are a common weapon of Taliban militants fighting to oust Karzai's Western-backed government. The devices often are placed along popular roads and regularly kill civilians.
In another development, Kabul police chief Ayub Salangi told VOA his officers arrested six suspected suicide bombers in the center of the capital on Sunday. He said the suspects were detained in a raid on a residential building where various weapons were seized, including explosive vests.
Taliban militants carried out two assaults in Kabul last month, targeting a traffic police building and the Afghan intelligence service and killing several security personnel.
Adil Shahzeb in London and VOA's Dari Service contributed to this report.