WASHINGTON: The United States has urged Afghanistan’s neighbors to make it clear to the Taliban that there is no alternative to a negotiated settlement of the Afghan dispute.

The statement, issued on the conclusion of the Heart of Asia conference in Amritsar, does not name any country but in their previous remarks US officials have directly asked Pakistan to facilitate talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

“The door to negotiations is open; the Taliban must be pressed, and must choose, to walk through that door,” said Laurel Miller, acting US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“We encourage all countries of the region to support the Afghan government in seeking a much broader peace negotiation and to take every opportunity to make it clear to the Taliban first that a negotiated settlement of the conflict is a necessity and second that the Taliban has a genuine opportunity to participate in a peace process,” she added.

The commander of the US and Nato forces in Afghanistan, Gen John Nicholson, told a news briefing at the Pentagon that Pakistan, Iran and Russia had considerable influence on the Taliban and they could play a key role in bringing political stability to Afghanistan.

Gen Nicholson also said that the Haqqani network of terrorists, which was fighting alongside the Taliban, still posed the greatest threat to Americans, coalition and Afghan partners from its alleged sanctuary in Pakistan.

In her statement at the Heart of Asia conference, Ms Miller noted that while the international community had continued to support the Afghan government, “what is … arguably more important over the long run is the support and partnership of Afghanistan’s neighbours”.

The US official warned that the threat of terrorism “remains very real” in Afghanistan and throughout the region and all regional states needed to work together to deal with this threat.

The US official appealed to the eight Heart of Asia countries — including China, India and Pakistan — to increase economic and energy connectivity to bring greater prosperity to Afghanistan and the region. “All regional and international initiatives that aim to develop linkages among the economies of the region deserve our collective support,” she said.

Ms Miller noted that in their discussions on Sunday, the conference’s participants shared an understanding that the security, political stability and economic prosperity of Afghanistan and the region were inextricably intertwined.