04:31 pm - Saturday 19 April 2014

Afghan, Pakistan forces agree on more border talks

Thu Jul 21, 11:53 am

Pakistani soldiers patrol during search operations against militants in the Bajaur tribal region

KABUL — Military officials from Pakistan and Afghanistan have agreed to hold more high-level talks to defuse a row over a series of attacks across their porous border, the Afghan defence ministry said Saturday.

Officials from both militaries and from the United States met Thursday in the northwest Pakistani city of Peshawar to discuss a spike in tensions on the lawless border that has allegedly killed dozens of villagers in recent weeks.

Afghan and Pakistani delegations agreed to do what they could “to stop and prevent repetition of the attacks, and to pave the ground for further strengthening of mutual, friendly relations” said ministry spokesman Mohammad Zahir Azimi in a statement.

“There should be more coordination and high level talks between the authorities of the two countries to seek solutions for the present problems and future issues,” he said.

“…. Higher delegations will hold talks with each other in the near future.”

On Friday the Pakistan army said it had proposed a hotline to create one single point of contact with all Afghan security forces, including the border police.

Regular meetings between commanders from both sides would also take place to diffuse tensions, along with interaction between tribal elders.

The escalating border war has inflamed tensions at a key juncture as Afghans and Americans reach out to the Taliban for peace talks.

For weeks, security forces on both sides of the unmarked border have issued claim and counter-claim over cross-border rocket and guerilla attacks that have reportedly killed dozens of residents and forced hundreds of others to flee.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has told Pakistan’s army chief Ashfaq Kayani the attacks must stop, while the Pakistanis summoned the Afghan ambassador and Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has complained back to Karzai.

For years the neighbours have traded accusations over the Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants embedded in both countries, who criss cross the porous, unmarked border and fight security forces from both governments.

The row is exacerbated by the fact that Afghanistan disputes the 2,400-kilometre (1,500-mile) Durrand Line, the 19th century demarcation of the border that separates Pashtun families and tribes.

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