President Karzai travelled to the UK last week for a summit meeting with Pakistani President Zardari and our Prime Minister David Cameron.
The Prime Minister invited his guests to talks not in London but at his country residence at Chequers, in the beautiful surroundings of the Chiltern hills. The aim was to create a more intimate setting for difficult but vital conversations about the Afghan-led peace process.
My sense is that it worked very well. The leaders agreed a series of steps to boost the peace process and strengthen the Afghan-Pakistani relationship. As the Pakistani President said, peace in Afghanistan is peace in Pakistan.
They committed to working for an Afghan peace deal within six months. It’s an ambitious timeline. But it matters so much to them, and us, that it is right to be ambitious.
I can’t think of any peace process elsewhere which has emerged of its own accord. These things get done because people work with energy and commitment towards them. That was the mood at Chequers too.
What has happened since the meeting shows that it has created what we diplomats call positive momentum.
The Pakistanis have announced that they will coordinate closely with the Afghan High Peace Council on releasing prisoners and steering them into the peace process.
And today a delegation is travelling to Pakistan to prepare a conference of the Ulema aimed at signalling religious leaders’ condemnation of suicide attacks. The conference itself will happen in early March. It could send a really important signal.
The ball is now in the court of those fighting the Afghan Government. President Karzai has made clear that the High Peace Council is ready to talk to the Taliban. He has supported (with Pakistan, the UK, the US and others) the opening of a Taliban office in Qatar to conduct such negotiations.
And he’s made clear that he can see a role for the Taliban in Afghan politics, if they are prepared to move from fighting the Afghan state to helping peacefully to shape its future.
We’ll keep doing everything we can to get that process underway. Wars don’t end by fighting, but by talking.