By Kay Johnson
ISLAMABAD, Nov. 30 (Reuters) – The leaders of Pakistan and Afghanistan met in Paris on Monday to discuss ways to resurrect peace talks with Taliban insurgents and to improve relations between the neighbours that soured earlier in the year after a string of militant attacks in Kabul.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s office released a statement saying he had met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on the sidelines of the climate change summit in the French capital.
“Discussions were also held on the resumption of the peace and reconciliation process” aimed at ending the 14-year-old Afghan war, the statement said.
“Both leaders agreed to work with all those who would enter such a process as legitimate political actors, and act, alongside the Afghan government, against those who refuse to take the path of peace.”
Pakistan in July hosted the first official talks between the Afghan government and representatives of Taliban insurgents, who are seeking to re-establish their hardline Islamist rule that ended with the 2001 U.S.-led military intervention.
However, a second round of talks was cancelled after it was revealed that the Taliban’s founder and reclusive leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, had been dead for two years.
Pakistan accused those who were trying to sabotage the talks of leaking the news.
Meanwhile, grinding violence in Afghanistan kills hundreds of people each month. The Taliban in September briefly seized a provincial capital for the first time since their ouster, in a major setback for Ghani’s government.
Newly declared Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour has not publicly endorsed a return to the negotiating table, although hopes were raised when he appointed a new team to the movement’s political office in Qatar.
The Afghan government had no immediate comment on Monday’s meeting.
Relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan improved in the early days of Ghani’s presidency, but quickly deteriorated after a series of major bombings in the Afghan capital, Kabul, that some blamed on militants based in Pakistan.
The Pakistani statement said Sharif had briefed Ghani on its ongoing military crackdown on militants on its side of the border, saying that he vowed “Pakistan would take all efforts to tackle the menace of terrorism facing the two countries”.