Zardari, Karzai discuss bilateral ties in Turkey
ISTANBUL TURKEY hosted the presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan on Tuesday for a trilateral summit designed to reduce tensions and promote cooperation between the two neighbours amid stepped-up Taliban attacks.
Turkish President Abdullah Gul held separate talks with Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan and Asif Zardari of Pakistan in an ancient Ottoman palace overlooking the Bosphorus before the three-way talks later Tuesday.
The meeting ahead of an international conference on Afghanistan on Wednesday in Turkey is the first between the two neighbours since the assassination of the former Afghan leader and peace negotiator Burhanuddin Rabbani on September 20.
Kabul has accused Islamabad of refusing to cooperate in the investigation of the murder, which according to Afghan authorities, was planned in Pakistan and committed by a Pakistani suicide bomber.
“The regional environment is deteriorating. We will try to resolve differences and play a facilitator role to address the mistrust between Afghanistan and Pakistan,” said a Turkish diplomatic source, speaking on condition of anonymity.
He added that all countries in the region have a duty to work for peace in Afghanistan.
The meeting comes just days after 17 people died in the deadliest attack yet in Kabul against the US-led NATO mission, including 10 Americans, and three days after a US-run base in Kandahar was targeted.
The three presidents will also discuss their fight against the Islamist insurgency and sign agreements enshrining their commitment to cooperate in the field of security, according to the same source.
The meeting is the sixth in Turkey, a NATO member, since the regular consultation mechanism was established in 2007 to encourage both countries to cooperate against extremism.
The previous meetings between the two countries’ presidents, military leaders and intelligence chiefs resulted in the parties’ commitment to improve cooperation.
Later on Tuesday, the three presidents will sign two agreements on security cooperation, including a military one, said the Turkish source, adding that the deals will forge cross-border cooperation against terrorism.
Kabul, like the United States, has said Islamabad is not doing enough against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda which have found refuge in the Pakistani tribal areas bordering Afghanistan and regularly carried out attacks against the Afghan, US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
The trilateral summit will be followed by an international conference Wednesday in Istanbul on the theme “Security and Cooperation in the heart of Asia.” Twenty countries and organisations are expected to attend.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton changed her plans and cancelled her visit to Istanbul at the last minute to stay with her ailing mother.
US special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman is expected to replace her.
The United States provides more than two-thirds of a total of 140,000 foreign troops currently in Afghanistan.
The Istanbul conference is intended to map out Afghanistan’s future with the US-led NATO mission already locked into troop drawdowns.