Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai is looking to Pakistan to help in the peace process and provide an opportunity for talks involving the Afghan High Peace Council and the Taliban.

Reading out a statement to the media after his one-on-one meeting with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Mr. Karzai said, “We discussed in this regard primarily and with emphasis, the issue of joint fight against extremism and reconciliation and peace building in Afghanistan with the expectation that the government of Pakistan will facilitate and help in manners it can to the peace process in Afghanistan and in providing opportunities or a platform for talks between the Afghan High Peace Council and the Taliban movement.”

On his part, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif assured Mr Karzai of Pakistan’s strong and sincere support for peace and reconciliation. He also agreed that this process had to be inclusive, Afghan-owned and Afghan-led.

Mr. Karzai arrived on Monday with his official delegation which met government and military officials and also signed agreements on trade and economic issues. In June Mr. Karzai had refused to be part of the U.S. talks with the Taliban after it opened an office in Doha as he wanted the process to be Afghan-led.

While publicly the two leaders did not refer to the Afghan President’s demand for release of Taliban prisoners, it is an important issue for Mr. Karzai and did form part of the discussion, it is learnt.

Mr. Sharif in his statement said Pakistan’s security and future prosperity is linked to that of Afghanistan in multiple ways. The year 2014 is particularly crucial for Afghanistan and this region, he pointed out saying he hoped this milestone would be crossed peacefully and extended all possible support.

The Finance Ministers met on Sunday to discuss various projects and finalise trade and economic agreements. The two countries have agreed to the early and full implementation of Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement.

Mr. Karzai’s visit has been marked by scepticism in his own country and contempt from the Taliban. Former Pakistan ambassador to Afghanistan Rustom Shah Mohmand said Mr. Karzai knew that the U.S. was an indispensable partner in the peace process but he wanted to assert his Afghan nationality. There are powerful forces against reconciliation in Afghanistan and the true potential of the relationship will be realised after the coalition forces leave next year and Pakistan too is free of the overarching U.S. influence, he said.

Support

President Asif Ali Zardari on Monday said Pakistan had been consistently extending every possible support for promotion of peace and stability in Afghanistan as a peaceful, stable and united Afghanistan was in Pakistan’s own interest.

Speaking to Mr. Karzai at a meeting , Mr. Zardari stressed the need for joint efforts and close coordination to cope with the evolving situation in the region.