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Presidents of Pakistan, Turkey discuss war in Afghanistan

ANKARA: The presidents of Turkey and Pakistan said Wednesday they would support initiatives designed to end the war in Afghanistan, but they declined to confirm that a plan is under way to open a political office for Taliban in Turkey to promote peace talks.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has said he discussed such an office with Burhanuddin Rabbani, a former president of Afghanistan who leads a peace council set up by the Afghan government to work toward a political solution. But Davutoglu’s office said there has been no formal request from the Afghan government about that.

Any solution to the Afghan conflict would likely require the support of Pakistan, and in particular elements of its security forces that are believed to have links to insurgents in Afghanistan. The U.S. has supported a political solution to the nearly decade-old insurgency.

During their joint news conference Wednesday, neither Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari nor Turkish President Abdullah Gul confirmed plans to let the Taliban open such an office in Turkey.

But Zardari, responding to a question on whether Pakistan would allow Taliban militants from Pakistan to travel to Turkey if the office is opened, said: “We will be facilitators to any format to lead to peace.”

Gul also avoided direct comment on the issue, saying only that Turkey would contribute to “any kind of initiative that would contribute to peace.” However, hard-line elements of the Taliban, whose leaders are based in southwest Pakistan, have publicly derided Afghan government efforts to promote peace and say no talks are possible until foreign forces leave Afghan soil.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 14, 2011, on page 11.

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