Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani met US Secretary of State John Kerry in Jordan on Sunday night to review efforts on seeking a peace deal in Afghanistan before foreign forces leave the country by the end of 2014.
Kayani, who was on a scheduled visit to Jordan, is the first high-ranking Pakistani official to meet Kerry since he was appointed to the post of US Secretary of State last month.
Diplomatic sources say Kerry had planned to travel to Islamabad during his unannounced visit to Kabul on Monday but he cancelled the trip, fearing accusations of meddling in upcoming elections.
A US official also told Reuters that Kerry had wanted to visit Pakistan on this trip but had decided not to given the May 11 election, in part to avoid any appearance of seeking to influence what would be Pakistan’s first civilian to civilian electoral handover.
Instead, he decided to meet Kayani in the Jordanian capital of Amman.
“Both discussed reconciliation process in Afghanistan and security issues concerning South Asian Region,” the Inter-Services Public Relations, said in a statement.
A security official told The Express Tribune that the Amman talks primarily focused on how to expedite the fragile peace process with the Afghan Taliban. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said the Qatar process was not making major headway largely due to Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s stubbornness. The official pointed out Karzai’s insistence that Afghan Taliban should only hold talks with Afghan High Peace Council was the real bone of contention.
“We believe that such preconditions will not help achieve the desired results,” the official explained. Pakistan strongly believes that all Afghan groups should be allowed to talk to each other, he added. Sources said Kayani and Kerry also discussed the release of Afghan Taliban prisoners and their possible role in brokering a deal.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 26th, 2013.
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