NATO endorsed the Afghan government's bid to strike a peace accord with Taliban rebels to end a war now in its 10th year.
A 68-member peace council was set up last week to accelerate informal talks under way between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the insurgents trying to drive the 142,000 U.S.-led foreign troops from Afghanistan.
“I take it for granted that groups and individuals involved in the reconciliation process not only put down their weapons and cut off relations with terrorist groups but also abide by and respect the Afghan constitution, including full respect for human rights,” North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters in Brussels today. “Provided these conditions are fulfilled I think we should give it a try.”
Efforts to reach a political settlement come as the public in the U.S. and European countries tires of the war and tensions mount with Pakistan, which blocked supply routes to Afghanistan last week to protest the killing of three Pakistani soldiers in an allied air strike.
Rasmussen didn't say how NATO would support the reconciliation process and declined to answer the “hypothetical” question whether the talks should include Mullah Omar, the cleric who is the Taliban's spiritual leader.
A former Afghan president, Burhanuddin Rabbani, was named yesterday to chair the peace council. Karzai said in a CNN interview to be broadcast today that “unofficial personal contacts” with Taliban representatives “have been going on for quite some time.”