Afghan president salutes Pakistan peace efforts

KABUL: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Friday saluted neighbouring Pakistan´s cooperation as Kabul seeks to lay the groundwork for peace with Taliban insurgents, the latest sign of improving ties between the two nations.

Afghanistan “appreciates Pakistan´s recent efforts in paving the ground for peace and reconciliation”, Ghani said in a statement. “We welcome the recent position Pakistan has taken in pronouncing Afghanistan´s enemy as Pakistan´s.”

He cited two major recent attacks as helping to bring the countries closer together — one in Yahya Khel in Afghanistan in November that left nearly 50 people dead, and a Taliban massacre at a school in the Pakistan city of Peshawar in December that killed 153, mostly children.

Ghani also spoke after Taliban commanders said the militants would soon restart contacts with US officials in Qatar to try to get peace talks on track after more than 13 years of war in Afghanistan.

The US and the Taliban central spokesman later denied the claims, however.

There have been several attempts at starting dialogue in recent years between the Taliban, Kabul and the United States — the Afghan government´s chief supporter — but with little success.

Last year´s election of Ghani, who pledged to make peace talks a priority, as well as supportive signals from Pakistan, has however boosted hopes for possible dialogue.

“Ghani has done good work to promote a dialogue for peace,” one Taliban commander said. Another said his recent talks with tribal chiefs had led to progress.

Ghani however said in his statement that “there are obviously elements opposing the peace process by spreading false information to cause public confusion and anxiety”.