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Karzai, Sharif Discuss Peace Talks

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has met with Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Islamabad to discuss how to push for direct talks between the Kabul government and Taliban insurgents.

President Karzai told reporters that he emphasized the need for enhancing joint efforts to counter extremism and promote peace and stability on both sides of their shared border.

Mr. Sharif says he reaffirmed Pakistan's "strong and sincere" support for the Afghan peace and reconciliation process. He said, however, that these efforts will have to be led by Afghans.

Monday's discussions also focused on increasing bilateral relations in areas such as trade, economy, energy and communications.

The two leaders also oversaw the signing of a comprehensive agreement by their finance ministers to speed up bilateral economic and development projects.



The meeting was the first between the two leaders since Mr. Sharif took office in June.

Tensions between Afghan leaders and their Pakistani counterparts have simmered for years over Afghan accusations that Pakistan shelters Taliban commanders and helps them plot attacks on local and U.S.-led coalition forces. Pakistan has consistently denied the allegations.

Analysts say Mr. Karzai's push for Pakistani help in ending the war in Afghanistan is likely to intensify ahead of the December 2014 deadline for the pullout of U.S.-led NATO forces.

Afghan officials say Mr. Karzai is also pressing for the release of Afghan prisoners held in Pakistan, including Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a former deputy commander of the Taliban.

The insurgent was believed to be independently attempting to engage in peace talks with Afghan authorities in 2010. But Pakistani officials detained him while traveling in Pakistan that year.

Pakistan's foreign ministry described Mr. Karzai's visit as a sign that the leaders of both countries want to improve relations.

Mr. Karzai refused to participate in security talks in June that were to have included U.S. diplomats and Taliban representatives. In scuttling the Doha talks, the Afghan leader said he was protesting efforts by the Taliban to portray itself as a sovereign entity rather than a rebel movement seeking reconciliation.

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