Pakistan to assist talks for Afghanistan and Taliban

Pakistan is ready to facilitate talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in the interests of regional peace, the country’s foreign minister said on Friday.

Speaking to reporters at a Pakistan aid conference, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said reconciliation was "basically an Afghan initiative".

"They have to own it, they have to lead it. We are there to help, we are there to facilitate."

It was "in Pakistan's interest", he said, to have a peaceful Afghanistan.

Qureshi was in Brussels co-hosting a daylong "Friends of Democratic Pakistan" meeting with EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton.

Also attending the meeting of 26 countries and international institutions are a slew of foreign ministers and dignitaries, including US envoy for the region, Richard Holbrooke.

Pakistan was the chief supporter of the Taliban regime, which imposed a harsh brand of Islam on Afghanistan, until its ouster in a US-led military operation after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Afghan and Western officials have long suspected that elements of the Pakistani establishment, notably the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, continue to support the militia.

Pakistan has always rejected the accusations, saying it is committed to fighting the Taliban and is actively targetting militants.

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