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US Urges Pakistani Role in Afghan Peace Process

Afghanistan's deputy foreign minister Jawed Ludin (l) addresses a news conference with Pakistan's Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir and United States Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman (r) in Islamabad, Aug 2, 2011

The United States is calling on Pakistan to play a vital role in the peace process in neighboring Afghanistan, where foreign forces have begun the process of withdrawal. Officials from all three countries met Tuesday in Islamabad for a fourth round of high-level talks focusing on a resolution to the 10-year conflict in Afghanistan.

While the diplomats from Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States discussed a wide range of issues at Tuesday's meeting, the topic of reconciliation with elements of the Taliban took center stage.

With the deadline for the withdrawal of international combat troops from Afghanistan set for 2014, the government in Kabul is eager to find a resolution to the conflict.

Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Jawed Ludin said he came to Islamabad carrying the message that there is a need to press ahead quickly, but also to make concrete progress toward ending the bloodshed.

"My message today was to bring a message of urgency," said Ludin. "That is reflective of the situation in my country. But also a message of cooperation that is result oriented. That produces the outcome that we want."

The three sides said that the efforts to reach a peace deal must be led by the Afghans themselves, but assisted and supported by the other regional players.

U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman, who attended Tuesday's meeting, said it is important that Pakistan support the peace process. But he added that all of Afghanistan’s neighbors must play a part in securing an Afghan designed peace and Afghanistan's future prosperity.

"We believe, all three of us, that the neighbors and near-neighbors of Afghanistan have an extremely important role to play in supporting not just Afghan-led reconciliation, but the economic vision as well," said Grossman.

Officials say increasing regional trade could play an important role in Afghanistan's economic development, another key to achieving peace in a country where so many turn to drug production and the insurgency to make ends meet.

The American delegation at Tuesday's meeting also included U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter and the newly-appointed U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker.

With the fighting season in Afghanistan still very much active, the core group members agreed that another round of discussions should be held soon. They also outlined a series of wider talks aimed at bringing peace and stability to war-torn Afghanistan.