BRUSSELS, April 24: Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani held “productive” talks on Wednesday on easing tensions between their countries, US Secretary of State John Kerry, who hosted the meeting, said.
Mr Kerry cautioned, however, that any results of the Brussels talks would have to be measured in improving relations as Nato winds down its Afghanistan mission.
“We had a very extensive and ... a very productive and constructive dialogue ... But we have all agreed that results are what will tell the story, not statements at a press conference,” Mr Kerry told reporters, without disclosing any details of what was discussed.
Afghanistan and Pakistan have developed differences over efforts to pursue a peace process involving the Afghan Taliban.
Mr Kerry hosted the meeting between Mr Karzai and Gen Kayani and Mr Jilani, with the aim of calming tensions over border disputes and the stalled peace process.
“I think that everybody here agreed today that we will continue a very specific dialogue on both the political track as well as the security track,” Mr Kerry, flanked by Mr Karzai and Gen Kayani, said after more than three hours of talks.
“We have a commitment to do that in the interests of Afghanistan, Pakistan and peace in the region.”
After talks over lunch, Mr Kerry, Gen Kayani and Mr Karzai strolled together in the sprawling garden of the residence of the US ambassador to Nato on the outskirts of the Belgian capital.
Mr Kerry told reporters at the start of the meeting that Afghanistan was in “a critical transformational period”. The secretary said he was “very hopeful for a productive series of discussions”. The talks would cover “security and other issues regarding the relationships in the region as well as the road forward heading towards 2014,” he said.
Mr Karzai called it an important meeting and said he was glad Gen Kayani and Mr Jilani had found the time to travel to Brussels. “Let’s hope...for the best,” he told reporters.
Neither Mr Karzai nor the Pakistan officials made any comment at the end of the meeting.
The talks came a day after a gathering of Nato foreign ministers in Brussels at which alliance Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Pakistan must crack down on militants who allegedly used the country as a sanctuary to launch attacks in Afghanistan.
The meeting follows weeks of tension with Pakistan over their border and stalled peace efforts.
Afghan officials accuse Pakistan of supporting Afghanistan’s Taliban and other insurgent factions.
Pakistan says Afghanistan has provided safe haven to militants on the Afghan side of the border.
Pakistan strongly rejects the charge it helps the Afghan Taliban. In a statement posted on its Brussels Embassy website on Monday, Pakistan said it had “consistently endeavoured to facilitate an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.
“Pakistan remains committed to continue its positive and constructive role towards a durable peace in Afghanistan. “Pakistan is convinced that a peaceful, stable, prosperous and united Afghanistan is in the interest of Afghanistan, Pakistan and the region,” it said.
Nato-led forces are expected to cede the lead role for security in Afghanistan this spring to Afghan soldiers, 12 years after the United States invaded Afghanistan to oust the Taliban government harbouring Osama bin Laden.
The White House has yet to decide how many US troops will remain in Afghanistan after 2014. Much depends on progress in negotiations with Mr Karzai on a Bilateral Security Agreement to define the future legal status of US forces.
The US government sees Pakistan as a key player in brokering peace with the Afghan Taliban who have been battling the Kabul government and US-led Nato forces since 2001.
In his remarks before talks, Foreign Secretary Jilani called it a very important meeting, adding: “We are looking forward to a very productive and forward-looking discussion.”—Agencies