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Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran Focus on Regional Peace

Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani (R) holds meeting with visiting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the prime minister's house in Islamabad, Pakistan, February 16, 2012.

The leaders of Iran and Afghanistan are in Pakistan for a trilateral summit on facilitating peace with the Afghan Taliban.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani greeted Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as their respective delegations arrived Thursday.

Pakistan's historic ties with the Taliban, as well as the porous borders shared among the three neighbors, provide the foundation for the summit, which is expected to focus on the steps needed to help stabilize the region. The Afghan Taliban and many affiliated groups are believed to be based in Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal regions bordering Afghanistan.

The Wall Street Journal quoted Karzai Thursday as saying that the U.S. and Afghan government have begun secret three-way talks with the Taliban. However, the insurgent group said in a statement Thursday that it has never negotiated with what it called "Mr. Karzai's puppet administration."

Preliminary peace talks said to be under way in Qatar reportedly include only U.S. and Taliban officials.

Earlier Thursday, Gilani hosted President Karzai in his home in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.

Karzai's office said in a statement that the two leaders discussed a range of issues, including bilateral cooperation in the fight against terrorism and enhanced trade and commerce.

President Karzai hailed his trip to Pakistan as "one of the most important ones in the past ten years" and thanked the Pakistani government for its cooperation in investigating acts of terror in Afghanistan.

Calling terrorism a "common enemy" that threatens people on both sides of their shared border, the president said it was imperative for the neighbors to continue to maintain "deep and sincere" relations.

Prime Minister Gilani said that Pakistan supports any peace process in Afghanistan that is Afghan-led and Afghan-owned and called for the resumption of the joint peace commission between the two countries.

Karzai also is scheduled to meet with Maulana Sami-ul-Haq, who is known as the spiritual father of the Taliban, during his trip.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.