U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry, center, talks with Afghan President… (Evan Vucci / AFP/Getty Images )
BRUSSELS -- Afghan and Pakistani leaders met with U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry on Wednesday to try to reverse a deterioration in relations that has threatened Afghanistan’s peacemaking efforts.
Invited by Kerry, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani flew to a sprawling Flemish-style estate on the edge of Brussels to try to overcome their differences on a long list of security issues.
Kerry emerged after more than three hours of talks saying that he believed “we made progress,” but making no claims of a breakthrough.
“The results will tell the story, not statements,” he said, flanked by Kayani and Karzai. “We will under-promise but deliver.”
Kerry, who was in Brussels for a North Atlantic Treaty Organization ministerial meeting, said all three had agreed to continue their discussions and planned now to return to their capitals to do homework. He did not elaborate.
Karzai and Kayani, who did not make statements, sought to reach a deal at a meeting in February hosted by British Prime Minister David Cameron at his country retreat, Chequers. However, their differences have widened since then.
Kerry said before Wednesday's meeting that he wanted to have a “continuing trilateral discussion with respect to the security and other issues” in the region as the Afghan military takes greater responsibility for protecting its own country.
Afghan leaders are trying to extend the reach of their shaky government and hammer out a political deal with the Taliban before the U.S. presence dwindles next year. But they believe the Pakistanis don’t want the Taliban -- with whom Islamabad has strong ties -- to negotiate a deal with the Afghan government that would undermine Pakistan's influence in the country.
The relationship is also strained by military clashes along the 1,640-mile border.
Even as plans for the meeting were set, Karzai’s spokesman said Monday that Islamabad had not taken any of the needed steps toward peace.
The estate where they met, Truman Hall, is a 27-acre property that was built by chocolate entrepreneur Jean Michiels and sold to the United States in 1984 by Michiel’s widow. It is the home of the U.S. ambassador to NATO.
Kerry at one point escorted Karzai and Kayani on a slow walk around the grounds, with Kerry in the center and the leaders on either side. Accompanying Kayani, who is considered Pakistan’s most powerful figure, was Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani. Karzai came with Bismullah Khan Mohammadi, the Afghan defense minister.
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