Karzai wins Kerry’s praise for peace, poll plans

KABUL (PAN): President Hamid Karzai called Monday a good day when the US military finally ceded full control of the Bagram detention facility to his administration -- removing a major irritant in relations between the two countries.
He hailed the long-awaited transition of the prison in central Parwan province at a joint news conference with US Secretary of State John Kerry after their formal meeting at the Presidential Palace in Kabul.
Earlier in the day, the US military turned over its main detention facility to the Ministry of Defence, ending a bitter row between the allies. "The transfer of the detention facility is an important part of the overall transition of security lead to Afghan forces,” ISAF commander Gen. Joseph F. Dunford said.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by Minister of Defence Gen. Bismillah Mohammadi and Dunford affirmed their mutual commitment to the lawful and humane treatment of detainees.
Kerry voiced stout support for Karzai’s plans for reconciliation with the Taliban and holding transparent and inclusive presidential elections. They were on the same wavelength on negotiations with the insurgents, he said.
On his first visit to Afghanistan’s capital since he assumed the secretary of state position in mid-December, the former senator appreciated the Karzai government’s vow to organise a safe and fair presidential ballot in April 2014.
In recent weeks, Kabul-Washington relations have come under strain -- particularly after Karzai accused the US was colluding with the Taliban to perpetuate instability and justify a continued foreign military presence in the country.
However, the top US diplomat said: "I’m confident he does not believe the US has any interest except to see the Taliban coming to the negotiating table. We're on the same page…I am comfortable with his explanation."
For his part, Karzai explained his remarks on US-Taliban contacts had been misinterpreted. However, the president underlined an immediate end to violence against civilians in order to make the peace effort a success.
Following his arrival in Kabul for an unannounced visit, he reaffirmed US commitment to its strategic partnership with Afghanistan and support for the ongoing security, political and economic transitions.
During his 24-hour stay, he will meet Afghan officials and civil society groups to discuss how they could continue to work together to sustain the progress made over the decade.
A statement from the US embassy said Kerry would confer with his interlocutors on advancing their shared goal of a secure, stable, prosperous, unified and sovereign Afghanistan.
Before flying into Kabul, Kerry and Pakistan Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani discussed the Afghan-led reconciliation process in Amman last night.
The military said they discussed security issues concerning the South Asian region. Since his takeover as secretary in December last year, Kerry had his first meeting with the Pakistan army chief.

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