October 23, 2015 / 10:30 PM / 2 years ago

Pakistan says cannot kill Taliban while inviting them to peace talks

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said on Friday he had told Afghan President Ashraf Ghani that Pakistan was prepared to help revive stalled Afghan peace talks but could not bring the Taliban to the negotiating table “and be asked to kill them at the same time.”

Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan addresses attendees during the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. Headquarters in New York, September 30, 2015. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Sharif, who was speaking at a Washington think tank a day after talks with U.S. President Barack Obama, did not elaborate, but was apparently referring to U.S. calls for Pakistan to crack down on Taliban and other militant sanctuaries within Pakistan.

A senior official of the U.S. administration said the United States appreciated Pakistan’s efforts to advance an Afghan-led reconciliation process, but “had repeatedly stressed that ‘kill or talk’ is not the choice.”

“A successful political process requires continued pressure on those that would seek to use violence against civilians or the state to achieve their goals,” the official said.

“We are encouraging Islamabad to take action against the Taliban, including the Haqqani Network, inside Pakistan as a means to support the peace talks.”

The official added that Washington stressed in discussions with Pakistan that it expected continued cooperation against those planning attacks against U.S. forces.

“We believe Pakistani pressure on the Taliban, including the Haqqani Network, is key to forcing the Taliban leadership to question the viability of its military campaign to achieve their political goals,” the official said.

At the same time, the official said the United States welcomed Pakistan’s commitment in a joint statement with the United States on Thursday to counter all militant groups, including the Haqqani network, a militant group operating inside Afghanistan that is considered close to Pakistani intelligence.

In his speech, Sharif said Pakistan had no reason to want violence in Afghanistan.

In a joint statement on Thursday, Obama and Sharif expressed their commitment to the Afghan peace process and called on Taliban leaders to enter direct talks with Kabul, which have stalled since inaugural discussions in Pakistan in July.

The talks broke down after the Afghan intelligence agency said Taliban leader Mullah Omar had been dead for two years.

Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Susan Heavey and Lisa Shumaker

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