Pakistan PM Sharif vows help for Afghan Taliban talks

Afghan President Hamid Karzai walks with Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during a guard of honour ceremony The visit is the first to Afghanistan by Mr Sharif (right) since he took office in May

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has promised to help facilitate peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

Mr Sharif was speaking after meeting Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul.

He said that meetings would be encouraged between Mr Karzai's representatives and Mullah Baradar, a former Taliban commander released from detention in Pakistan last year.

Afghan officials believe Mullah Baradar is key to the success of any talks.

Mr Karzai has said he believes Pakistan has a high degree of influence over the Afghan Taliban.

It is believed the Taliban launch attacks from bases inside Pakistan and elements of Pakistan's intelligence service have also been accused of backing the Afghan Taliban.

However, Islamabad strongly denies there is any official collusion.

Recently relations between the two countries seem to have improved and Saturday's meeting between the two men appears to have been brief but cordial, the BBC's Karen Allen reports from Kabul.

London talks

There has been a fresh impetus to revive Afghanistan's peace process before Nato troops withdraw next year.

The Taliban have refused direct contact with President Karzai or with the Afghan High Peace Council, dismissing them as puppets of Washington.

The High Peace Council wants to open negotiations with Taliban insurgents, who have fought US-led Nato and Afghan forces since 2001.

President Karzai was also angered when the Taliban opened an office in Qatar in June, dealing another blow to reconciliation hopes.

Mr Karzai visited Islamabad in August for talks with the Pakistani prime minister but Saturday's one-day visit is Mr Sharif's first to Kabul since he took office in May.

The two leaders also met British Prime Minister David Cameron in London last month for the fourth of a series of trilateral meetings designed to foster regional stability.

One of President Karzai's main demands has been the release of high-profile Taliban prisoners held in Pakistan in the hope that this will help jump-start direct talks with insurgents.

Meanwhile, Washington and Kabul are still finalising a deal allowing US troops to remain in Afghanistan after 2014.

Mr Karzai has so far refused an early signature of the pact, seeking further assurances from the US.

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