—File Photo

ABU DHABI: Pakistan plans to release all Afghan Taliban prisoners still in its detention, including the group’s former second-in-command, an official said on Friday, the clearest signal yet that it backs reconciliation efforts in neighbouring Afghanistan.

“The remaining detainees, we are coordinating, and they will be released subsequently,” Jalil Jilani, Pakistan’s foreign secretary, said at a news conference in Abu Dhabi.

Asked if the former Taliban number-2 Mullah Baradar would be among those to be released, he said: “The aim is to release all,” without elaborating further.

Jilani was speaking after meeting the acting US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, David Pearce, and Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Jawed Luddin at the Afghan embassy in Abu Dhabi.

Luddin told reporters the purpose of the meeting was to discuss “security and political dimensions of bilateral relationships” between the three countries.

Luddin said the peace process had gained momentum in recent weeks with the release of some Taliban detainees by Pakistan, preparations by the Afghan Taliban movement to open a political office in Doha, and Afghan President Hamid Karzai's visit to Washington.

“Steps have been taken forward in an environment of cooperation and shared concerns ... 2013 is a very crucial year and we agreed we need to maintain the momentum,” he said.

“2013 will see concrete outcomes in the peace process.”

At their meeting a week ago, Karzai and US President Barack Obama agreed to speed up the handover of combat operations in Afghanistan to Afghan forces, raising the prospect of an accelerated US withdrawal.

Karzai also appeared to give ground on US demands for immunity from prosecution for any American troops who stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014, a concession that could allow Obama to keep at least a small residual force there.

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