Pakistani general reiterates support for Afghan peace process as violence surges

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KABUL, May 10 (Reuters) - The Pakistani army chief offered Islamabad's support for the Afghanistan peace process in a meeting with President Ashraf Ghania in Kabul on Monday amid growing violence as the United States withdraws its troops.

Britain's chief of defence staff also attended the meeting.

Pakistan is a key player in moves to resolve the conflict between the Western-backed government and the Taliban insurgents.

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In the past, Islamabad has been accused of harbouring the Taliban but in recent years Washington and other Western powers have acknowledged its efforts to push the militant group to take part in peace talks.

Pakistani Army Chief of Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa reiterated to Ghania that "a peaceful Afghanistan means a peaceful region in general and a peaceful Pakistan in particular," a Pakistani military statement said.

"We will always support 'Afghan led-Afghan owned' Peace Process based on mutual consensus of all stakeholders," it said.

General Bajwa was accompanied by British Chief of Defence Staff General Nicholas Patrick Carter. Britain still has troops in Afghanistan in a war that started with the overthrow of a Taliban government following the 2001 attacks by Islamist militants in the United States.

In recent weeks, Pakistan has been negotiating with the insurgents to try to get them to commit to a ceasefire, Taliban and diplomatic sources have told Reuters.

Pakistan is also trying to persuade them to agree to an extension of the U.S.-Taliban agreement which stipulated U.S. and other foreign forces should withdraw by May and to continue to take part in planned peace talks in Turkey. read more

But violence has risen starkly in recent weeks as the U.S. forces pull out.

The Taliban announced on Sunday they would commit to a three-day ceasefire for the Muslim religious holiday of Eid later this week. read more

Afghanistan's presidential palace said on Monday the security forces would also observe the ceasefire.

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Reporting by Kabul and Islamabad bureaux; Editing by Alex Richardson

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