The Heart of Asia conference in Islamabad, previously held in Turkey, Kazakhstan and China, is seen as a chance to lay the basis for a resumption of an Afghan peace process broken off in July, although Afghan officials caution that obstacles remain.
               
"This is not Pakistan's conference, this is Afghanistan's conference," Ghani, who had not previously confirmed his attendance, told reporters at a news conference in Kabul.
               
Referring to recent reports that Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour had died in a gunfight with other Taliban commanders, a development likely to further complicate any fresh peace talks, Ghani said there was no evidence to prove he had been killed.
               
Afghanistan has long harboured deep suspicion of Pakistan, accusing it of sponsoring the Taliban insurgency in what Ghani has referred to as a 14-year long 'undeclared war' between the two countries.
               
Under pressure from his ally the United States, Ghani has stepped up efforts to improve relations, although they received a setback when peace talks with the Taliban, facilitated by Pakistan, broke down in July.
               
"Peace must be made between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The relations of two states are not relations between two youngsters - to be friends for an hour and then don't talk to each the next hour," Ghani said.
              
 Speaking in Kabul on Sunday, newly appointed U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Olson, urged the two countries to work together.
               "
We appreciate the outreach that President Ghani has undertaken since becoming president to improve relations with Pakistan," he said.

 

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