Karzai wants Pakistan to help in talks with Taliban

Afghan President Hamid Karzai met with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday and urged Pakistan to facilitate political reconciliation talks with the Taliban.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Karzai said he asked Sharif to provide a platform for talks between the Afghan High Peace Council and the Taliban.

He said the subject topped the agenda in his talks with Sharif.

Karzai arrived in Islamabad on Monday morning for a visit originally scheduled to last one day, traveling with a 10-member delegation that included three Cabinet ministers and Salahuddin Rabbani, the head of the Afghan High Peace Council.

Later in the day, it was announced that Karzai had extended his stay, triggered speculation that the two sides were making progress in their talks focused on matters of security, terrorism and Afghan reconciliation between the Afghan government and Taliban.

Afghan presidential spokesman Aimal Faizi said that a second round of talks between Karzai and Sharif will be held Tuesday.

Karzai said the primary concern for Pakistan and Afghanistan is the lack of security for their citizens and called for a "common campaign against extremism."

Sharif said Pakistan's security is linked to Afghanistan and assured full cooperation for Afghanistan's reconciliation process.

"We fully agree that this process has to be Afghan-owned, Afghan-led," he said.

Karzai reviewed an honor guard and was presented to Pakistani Cabinet ministers and diplomats before the start of the talks with Sharif at the Prime Minister House.

Sharif's adviser for foreign affairs, Sartaj Aziz, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Chief of the Army Staff Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani and the head of Inter Service Intelligence, Lt. Gen. Zaheer Ul Islam, joined Sharif in the meeting.

This was Karzai's first visit to Pakistan since Sharif took office in May.

Meanwhile, Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press reported from Kabul that the Taliban have ruled out the possibility of talks with the Afghan High Peace Council as demanded by Karzai.

"The Taliban leadership has decided not to change their stance," AIP said, quoting credible Taliban sources.

The sources were also reported as saying that there was no possibility of opening a Taliban office in Turkey or Saudi Arabia, as proposed by the Kabul government. They also ruled out any talks through their Doha office, which would remain closed until the issue of raising the Taliban flag outside the office is resolved.

The Taliban's office in the Qatari capital was closed when Karzai objected to its signboard proclaiming it to be the office of the "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan" and the hoisting of the Taliban flag.