ISLAMABAD (AFP) – Pakistan assured visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron on Sunday that it would promote efforts to reach a peace deal in neighbouring Afghanistan before NATO's planned withdrawal.
Cameron is the first foreign government leader to visit Islamabad since Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif took office in June after winning landmark elections in May.
Relations between Kabul and Islamabad are traditionally mired in distrust. The apparent headway made at a summit hosted by Cameron in February has since unravelled in a series of public rows.
Cameron flew to Pakistan from Afghanistan, where he joined an international push to revive peace efforts that recently collapsed in ignominy after the insurgents opened an office in the Qatari capital Doha.
"We hope that the UK will continue these efforts to seek sustainable peace and stability in Afghanistan," Sharif told reporters after talks with Cameron.
He supported Afghan President Hamid Karzai's position that any peace process should be "Afghan-owned and Afghan-led".
"I have assured Prime Minister Cameron of our firm resolve to promote the shared objective of a peaceful and stable Afghanistan, to which the three million Afghan refugees currently living in Pakistan can return with honour and dignity," said Sharif.
Cameron welcomed Sharif's remarks about the "vital importance of the relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan".
"I profoundly believe that a stable, prosperous, peaceful, democratic Afghanistan is in Pakistan's interest, just as a strong, stable, peaceful, prosperous, democratic Afghanistan is in Pakistan's interest, and I know that you and President Karzai will work together towards those ends," Cameron said.
The search for a peace deal is an urgent priority as 100,000 US-led NATO combat troops prepare to withdraw next year and Afghan forces take on the fight against insurgents that has lasted more than a decade.
The Taliban office in Qatar that opened on June 18 was meant to foster talks but instead enraged Karzai, who saw it as being styled as an embassy for a government-in-exile.
He broke off bilateral security talks with the Americans and threatened to boycott any peace process altogether.
On Saturday however, Karzai told Cameron that a subsequent Taliban attack on the presidential palace "will not deter us from seeking peace".