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Cameron, Karzai and Zardari meet in UK

February 5, 2013

 By Tim Foxley

Summary: UK/Afghan/Pakistan senior leader gathering in UK.  Optimistic pronouncements on expected future progress in delivering the Taliban to a negotiated settlement.  Little tangible or new.

Peace in our time?

Peace in our time?

Just noting with interest the Cameron/Karzai/Zardari gathering in England and looking for any interesting signals.  Not quite clear if anything significant has been decided.  “Peace in six months” sounds exceptionally ambitious, given the recent comments from the US ambassador to Afghanistan, here:

There are no significant peace talks under way with the Taliban, the US ambassador to Afghanistan has said, despite years of western and Afghan government efforts to broker a political end to the decade-long war in the country, and some recent signs of progress.

James Cunningham, the US ambassador in Kabul, described reconciliation as “a process that hasn’t even really begun”, although he added that one of Washington’s goals was ensuring “at least the beginning of a serious process”.

The heading “peace in six months” also unintentionally gives the impression that it is Afghanistan and Pakistan who have been fighting each other.  In many ways, perhaps they have.  My sense is still that, given no one quite knows what will actually happen from 1st January 2015 (insurgency increases, decreases or stalemate), the attitude likely to pervade thinking in the region is “wait and see”, which will hamper some of the international community desires and drives, such as this one.

BBC News, 4 Feb 2013: Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistan’s Asif Ali Zardari have said they will work towards a peace deal for Afghanistan within six months.  Speaking in Britain, after talks with Prime Minister David Cameron, they said they would “take all necessary measures” to achieve such a goal.  They backed the opening of an Afghan office in Doha and urged the Taliban to do the same for talks to take place.  The two men reaffirmed their aim to work towards a strategic partnership.  They said they hoped to sign an agreement strengthening ties on economic and security issues, including trade and border management, later in the year.  The talks – held at the UK prime minister’s Chequers country retreat north of London – is the third round of discussions since Mr Cameron instigated the trilateral process last year.

Also here, from the Guardian:

The Guardian, 4 Feb 2013: David Cameron issued a direct apppeal to the Taliban to enter peaceful talks on the future of Afghanistan after hosting talks at Chequers with the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, and Pakistan’s president, Asif Ali Zardari.

The prime minister said the two leaders had agreed “an unprecedented level of co-operation”.

He said they had agreed to sign up to a strategic partnership between their two countries in the autumn.

At the same time, they also agreed to the opening of an office in the Qatari capital, Doha, for negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan high peace council.

Cameron said the agreement should send a clear message to the Taliban. “Now is the time for everyone to participate in a peaceful, political process in Afghanistan,” he said.

He added: “This should lead to a future where all Afghans can participate peacefully in that country’s political process.”

Karzai said that they had had a “very frank and open discussion” and echoed Cameron’s appeal to the Taliban to join peace talks.

Still watching this space (and the Taliban’s website space)…

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