The leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan said on Monday they would work to reach a peace deal within six months, while throwing their weight behind moves for the Taliban to open an office in Doha.
Following talks hosted by British Prime Minister David Cameron, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari also urged the Islamists to join the reconciliation process in Afghanistan.
But with no Taliban representative at the tripartite talks and with the militants still refusing to talk to Kabul, analysts said the commitment by the three leaders risked being one-sided.
They had a private dinner on Sunday and then full talks on Monday at Cameron’s Chequers country retreat near London, amid growing fears that a civil war could erupt when international troops leave Afghanistan in in 2014.
“All sides agreed on the urgency of this work and committed themselves to take all necessary measures to achieve the goal of a peace settlement over the next six months,” they said in a joint statement issued by Cameron’s office.
“They supported the opening of an office in Doha for the purpose of negotiations between the Taliban and the High Peace Council of Afghanistan as part of an Afghan-led peace process,” the statement said.
Karzai had previously shunned the idea of a Taliban office in Doha because of fears that it would lead to the Kabul government being frozen out of talks between the United States and the Taliban.
The joint statement also said that the Afghan and Pakistani leaders had agreed arrangements to “strengthen co-ordination” of the release of Taliban detainees from Pakistani custody.
Afghan peace negotiators have welcomed Pakistan’s release of dozens of Taliban prisoners in recent months, a move they believe could help bring militants to the negotiating table.