Afghanistan, Pakistan take small steps towards repairing rift

Wed Nov 2, 2011 7:28pm GMT

By Jonathon Burch and Myra MacDonald

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Pakistan and Afghanistan have stepped back from a near-rupture in relations following the murder of an Afghan peace envoy, officials said on Wednesday after several days of talks between the two countries.

Leaders of the two countries, accompanied by their army and intelligence chiefs, met at a regional conference hosted by Turkey for the first time since the assassination in September of peace envoy and former president Burhanuddin Rabbani.

"We gained more than we hoped for. We broke the ice," a Turkish official said of his country's efforts to help repair a relationship essential to ending the war in Afghanistan.

"We all know the story here - it's difficult," a senior western diplomat said. "They know the bottom line is that they do actually need each other."

Afghanistan had earlier cancelled talks with Pakistan after Rabbani's killing in Kabul by a suicide bomber posing as a Taliban peace emissary who Afghanistan said was sent from the Pakistani city of Quetta.

The assassination also prompted Afghan President Hamid Karzai to say there was no point in talking to the Taliban and that Afghanistan should instead deal directly with Pakistan, which it accuses of supporting and sheltering the insurgents.

Afghan and Pakistani officials, however, both indicated a willingness to try again to explore peace talks with insurgents - though they differ on how these should be approached.

Kabul has in the past accused Pakistan of interfering in the   Continued...

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