US Secretary of State John Kerry was Thursday to hold talks with Pakistani leaders in Islamabad aimed at breaking the deadlock in Afghan peace talks ahead of the planned withdrawal of foreign troops.
In the first visit by a top US diplomat since Pakistan’s new government took office in June, Kerry’s main engagement was separate meetings with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and military chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, officials said.
He was also scheduled to meet outgoing President Asif Ali Zardari and national security adviser Sartaj Aziz.
At the heart of talks is likely to be a stalled peace initiative with the Afghan Taliban in Doha, an official in Islamabad said.
“How to resume the process is of course important for both the United States and us,” said Aizaz Chaudhry, Foreign Ministry spokesman.
The Taliban’s political office in the capital of Qatar was closed, stalling the talks, after Kabul complained its styling was too close to the name and flag of the country’s former extremist regime.
Meeting overnight ahead of Kerry’s arrival, Pakistani political and military leaders said they backed efforts to secure peace in Afghanistan through “political means.”
A statement issued by Nawaz Sharif’s office said Islamabad would also press the US diplomat to end drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.
The campaign to hunt down high-profile al-Qaeda and Taliban figures has been a major source of tension in recent months.
John Kerry arrives in Pakistan on key visit
US Secretary of State John Kerry flew into Pakistan late Wednesday to press the new government on eliminating Islamist militant safe-havens as US-led troops prepare to leave Afghanistan.
He arrived in Islamabad shortly before 9 pm (16:00 GMT) ahead of meetings with President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and army chief of staff General Ashfaq Kayani on Thursday.
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