CTV.ca | Pakistani, Afghan leaders agree to Taliban talks
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Pakistani and Afghan leaders vowed Tuesday to seek dialogue with Taliban insurgents, saying the "door is now open" for reconciliation.
The declaration by political and tribal leaders adds force to existing moves in Afghanistan and Pakistan to talk to militants prepared to hand over their weapons and accept the constitutions of both countries.
"We agreed that contacts should be established with the opposition," said former Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, the head of the Afghan delegation at two days talks in the Pakistani capital.
"Those who are willing to take this opportunity and come forward, the door is open," he said.
He said the meeting, or "jirga," had formed committees to seek contacts with "all parties in this conflict." They would then report back to a meeting in two months with their findings, he said.
Violence in Afghanistan and Pakistan has risen steadily since U.S.-led forces drove the Taliban from power in Afghanistan in 2001. Many militants fled to Pakistan's border regions, where they have established bases and struck back with increasing success.
The Afghan government is seeking talks with elements in the Taliban leadership in an effort at reconciliation and the Taliban's former ambassador to Pakistan said the two sides recently had contacts in Saudi Arabia.
Pakistani officials have also said they are prepared to talk with militants who give up arms.
U.S. officials, who are preparing to reinforce their troops in Afghanistan, have played down the significance of the Afghan talks, but support the principle of reconciliation for those who give up violence.
Tuesday's meeting of some 50 leaders in Islamabad, dubbed a mini-jirga, is a follow-up to a much larger "peace council" in Kabul last year which vowed to fight terrorism together.
The idea for the jirga process had been hatched almost a year earlier during a White House meeting between U.S. President George W. Bush, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and then-Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.
The pledges of cross-border cooperation made in 2007 have largely failed to materialize.