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Afghan leader urges Pakistan to aid peace talks

ISLAMABAD — Afghanistan’s president, Hamid Karzai, urged neighboring Pakistan to facilitate peace talks with the Taliban during a visit to Islamabad on Monday, but expectations were low in both countries that much progress would be made in jump-starting negotiations.

Pakistan is seen as key to the process because of its strong historical ties with the Taliban.

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But Pakistan and Afghanistan have long had troubled relations and view each other with suspicion, especially with Kabul repeatedly accusing Islamabad of providing sanctuary to the insurgents.

Karzai was visiting Pakistan for the first time since Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif took office in June. Karzai told Sharif during a joint news conference in Islamabad that he expects the Pakistani government to ‘‘facilitate and help’’ talks between the Afghan High Peace Council and the Taliban.

On Saturday, however, the Afghan president described his expectations for progress during the visit, saying, ‘‘I am not confident, but I am hopeful.’’

He indicated that previous visits to Pakistan hadn’t helped improve security in Afghanistan, but ‘‘we must continue our efforts.’’

Sharif said Monday that he reaffirmed to Karzai ‘‘Pakistan’s strong and sincere support for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.’’

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But an editorial published in Pakistan’s main English language newspaper, Dawn, was dubious about the two countries getting the ‘‘tattered’’ reconciliation process back on track.

‘‘Hope for the best, but prepare for continuation of the status quo — that may be the best approach as President Karzai arrives in Islamabad,’’ the editorial said.

Karzai’s visit comes after an attempt to start peace talks in the Qatari capital of Doha foundered in June. The Afghan president pulled the plug on the talks even before they began because he was angered that the group marked the opening of its Doha political office with the flag, anthem, and symbols of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan — the Taliban’s name when they ruled the country.

The Taliban have held secret talks with Karzai’s representatives to try to restart the peace process, Afghan officials and a senior Taliban representative recently told the Associated Press.

But it’s unclear if they have made any headway.

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