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Top Afghan negotiator cautiously optimistic on peace prospects

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Tue, 1 Jan 2013 03:53 GMT
Author: Reuters
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KABUL, Jan 1 (Reuters) - One of Afghanistan's top peace negotiators said he was cautiously optimistic about prospects for reconciliation with the Taliban and that all sides now realised a military solution to the war was not possible.

Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai also told Reuters that the Kabul government hoped to transform the Afghan Taliban into a political movement. He predicted the highly lethal Haqqani militant network would join the peace process if the Afghan Taliban started formal talks.

Signs are emerging that the Afghan government is gaining momentum in its drive to persuade the Taliban to lay down their arms before most NATO combat troops pull out by the end of 2014, a timeline that makes many Afghans nervous.

Pakistan, long accused of supporting Afghan insurgents such as the Taliban, has sent the strongest signals yet that it will deliver on promises of helping the Kabul government and the United States bring stability to its neighbour.

Stanekzai, also a close aide to President Hamid Karzai, expressed cautious optimism about prospects for peace.

Members of the Afghan government, the Taliban and some of its old enemies in the Northern Alliance discussed ways of easing the conflict during a recent meeting in France.

"I think one consensus was that everybody acknowledged that nobody will win by military (means). Everybody acknowledged that we have to enter into a meaningful negotiation," he said in a rare interview.

(Reporting by Michael Georgy and Hamid Shalizi; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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