Pakistan foreign minister: U.S., Pakistan ties fully repaired

Khar

Pakistan recently released mid-level Afghan Taliban prisoners to help facilitate peace talks between the militant group and the Kabul government, the clearest sign it was committed to advancing Afghan reconciliation. Khar said Islamabad was willing to take further steps but would not say whether that would include releasing senior Afghan

Taliban figures, like the former second in command, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. "I think it is important that we have intensive engagement on what needs to be done," she said. Afghan officials think Baradar may be one of the few commanders with the stature to bring elements of the Taliban into peace talks after more than a decade of war.

During a recent visit to Pakistan by members of the Afghan High Peace Council, Pakistan agreed to release some prisoners, although not Baradar, and to provide safe passage for those wishing to enter talks, Khar said.

Pakistan would also encourage Afghan insurgents to enter into direct talks with President Hamid Karzai's government. So far, there have been only contacts. "For us in Pakistan today, the most important capital in the world is Kabul," said Khar, because instability there could spill over into Pakistan, and fuel its own Taliban insurgency.

She said the Afghan and Pakistan governments were discussing ways to strengthen militarycooperation. Currently, relations are strained. Afghanistan still suspects elements in Pakistan of supporting the Taliban, despite denials from Islamabad. The Pakistan military, pursing Pakistani insurgents, has also shelled villages across the border in Afghanistan, prompting protests.

CLOSER TIES WITH INDIA

In addition to improving ties with Afghanistan, Khar said Pakistan also wanted to pursue closer ties with arch-rival India.

The United States has long believed that Pakistan would focus more closely on helping it pacify Afghanistan if relations with India improved. The nuclear-armed neighbours have fought three wars since their independence from British rule in 1947 and are at loggerheads over the status of the disputed territory of Kashmir.

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