Pakistan Minister Visit Aims To Warm Afghan Ties

Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar was due to meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai on a one-day visit to Kabul Wednesday aimed at warming frosty ties between the two neighbours.

Pakistan Minister Visit Aims To Warm Afghan Ties

KABUL — Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar was due to meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai on a one-day visit to Kabul Wednesday aimed at warming frosty ties between the two neighbours.

"This visit will mark a new cooperation phase between the two countries," Afghan foreign ministry spokesman Janan Mosazai told reporters ahead of what will be Khar's first visit to Afghanistan since taking office in July.

Kabul, which accuses Islamabad of supporting the 10-year Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, put relations on ice after the September murder of its peace envoy Burhanuddin Rabbani, which one Afghan minister blamed on Pakistani spies.

The Kabul government said the bomber who killed Rabbani was a Pakistani and accused the Pakistani government of hindering the investigation.

"After the death of Rabbani we boycotted some of the bilateral and trilateral meetings (including the US) with Pakistan," a senior official in Karzai's office told AFP.

"This visit is aimed at improving our relations as well as at resuming those meetings."

In December, Pakistan boycotted the Bonn conference on the future of Afghanistan to protest against US air strikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers along the porous Afghan border on November 26.

Khar meets her Afghan counterpart Zalmai Rasoul and Karzai amid tentative moves towards negotiations in Qatar between Washington and the Taliban, who were ousted from power by the 2001 US-led invasion.

Karzai has given his blessing to the Taliban opening a political office in the Gulf state, but is wary of being sidelined and has insisted that his government has a central role in any peace talks.

In Islamabad, foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said Khar's talks would cover "the security situation in Afghanistan and the reconciliation process".

"We hope the visit would further enhance mutual understanding on major issues and bring the two countries closer," he told AFP.

Pakistani analyst Rahimullah Yusufzai said Khar's trip was important because it is her first to Afghanistan and comes after a gap in Pakistani official visits to Kabul.

He said both governments "feel a bit left out" of the Qatar negotiations and "would be trying at least to find out what is happening and maybe try to coordinate their own policies accordingly".

But he said many problems between the two countries remain unresolved, including the Rabbani assassination, adding: "I don't expect any real breakthrough at these talks."