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Talks Between Pakistan and Afghanistan Fail to Break Deadlock on Border Deal

Men coming from Afghanistan move down a corridor between security fences at the border post in Torkham, Pakistan June 18, 2016. Reuters/Fayaz Aziz.

Men coming from Afghanistan move down a corridor between security fences at the border post in Torkham, Pakistan, June 18. Credit: Reuters/Fayaz Aziz.

Islamabad: Pakistan and Afghanistan failed to reach an agreement on border management in talks on June 20, officials said, after clashes at the border last week left four dead and thousands stranded.

Clashes broke out when Pakistan started building a barrier at the crossing to stop Islamist militants crossing over from Afghanistan. The plan angered Afghanistan, which rejects the colonial-era Durand Line border drawn up in 1893 and objects to Pakistan building checkpoints along the disputed boundary.

The two countries agreed on a ceasefire on June 15, and it was decided that an Afghan delegation led by deputy foreign minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai would visit Pakistan for talks on June 20.

Foreign secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry on June 20 informed the Afghan delegation that Pakistan planned to build four gates at different points on the crossing, a Pakistani foreign office official said.

“There was no final agreement but we have informed them (Afghanistan) of our position,” the official said, requesting anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the media.

“These gates are important for the safety and security of both Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

A second Pakistani official said the foreign policy chiefs would hold further discussions at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Tashkent later this week.

A statement from the Afghan foreign ministry said the talks were held in an “amicable and friendly atmosphere” but said Karzai had raised what it called “various violations” by Pakistan, including setting up checkpoints in Afghan territory.

“Moreover, he strongly protested against Pakistan‘s ongoing unprovoked artillery shelling of Afghan villages,” it said.

Thousands of vehicles normally pass through the crossing every week, making it a vital trade link between the countries.

On June 20, dozens of Pakistani traders protested outside the provincial parliament in Peshawar, demanding that Afghan refugees be deported.

Pakistan hosts some 2.5 million Afghans who have fled fighting in their home country.

A protest leader said the free movement of Afghans into Pakistan had destroyed peace in the country and needed to be checked.

Relations between the neighbours have been strained in recent months. Kabul accuses Pakistan of harbouring militants seeking to topple the Afghan government and not doing enough to bring Afghan Taliban leaders, over which Pakistan holds some sway, to the negotiating table.

Pakistan denies supporting militants and says it is constructing the border gate to prevent anti-Pakistan militants crossing over from Afghanistan.

(Reuters)