BERLIN (Reuters) - Pakistan has an important role to play in the Afghan peace process, including in any negotiations with the Taliban, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Tuesday.
Speaking in Berlin a day after Pakistan boycotted a conference devoted to helping Afghanistan, Karzai said the two countries needed to work closely together.
“Pakistan’s role in any negotiations with the Taliban is very important and that is what we are seeking,” he told a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“Pakistan unfortunately suffers from the presence of sanctuaries (for Taliban insurgents) there and unless we address the sanctuaries and work together towards a comprehensive understanding of our problems and the eradication of radicalism we will neither see peace in Afghanistan nor peace and stability in Pakistan,” he added.
Washington and Kabul say Pakistan houses “safe havens” for insurgents. Pakistan says it is being used as a scapegoat for the U.S. failure to bring stability to Afghanistan.
Islamabad boycotted Monday’s conference in the German city of Bonn after NATO aircraft killed 24 of its soldiers on the border with Afghanistan in a November 26 attack the alliance called a “tragic” accident.
At his news conference, Karzai also condemned an attack earlier on Tuesday on a Shi’ite Muslim shrine in central Kabul that killed at least 48 people, including women and children, while they were marking the festival of Ashura.
It was one of the bloodiest attacks on Kabul civilians since the fall of the Taliban government in 2001 and a potent reminder of Afghanistan’s troubles just one day after Karzai won Western pledges of long-term support for his country.
“This is the first time on such an important religious day in Afghanistan that terrorism of that horrible nature is taking place,” Karzai said.
At Monday’s conference in Bonn, foreign governments pledged to support Afghanistan long after allied troops go home, with or without a political settlement with insurgents.
Reporting by Stephen Brown; Writing by Gareth Jones; Editing by Peter Graff