Pakistan accused by Karzai of stalling talks

Pakistan accused by Karzai of stalling talks

Pakistan accused by Karzai of stalling talks

Afghan President Hamid Karzai (L) is welcomed by German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle at the Cologne/Bonn military airport Dec 2. REUTERS photo

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has accused Pakistan, which is boycotting an international conference on Afghanistan starting today in Bonn, of undermining all negotiations with the Taliban.

“Up until now, they have sadly refused to back efforts for negotiations with the Taliban,” Karzai told Der Spiegel weekly in comments reported in German and due to be published on Monday.

The Bonn meeting will seek to chart a course for Afghanistan after the NATO withdrawal in 2014, but a boycott by Pakistan has dealt a blow to already fragile hopes for a roadmap. Pakistan is seen as vital to any prospect of stability in the war-ravaged country a decade after US-led forces ousted the Taliban, who had offered safe haven to al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

But Islamabad pulled out after 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed in cross-border NATO air strikes a week ago. The United States has voiced regret over the strikes but has stopped short of issuing an apology while the American military conducts an investigation.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Saturday called Pakistan’s prime minister to offer condolences. In the call with Yousuf Raza Gilani, Clinton “reiterated America’s respect for Pakistan’s sovereignty and commitment to working together in pursuit of shared objectives on the basis of mutual interest and mutual respect,” the State Department said.

Islamabad has so far refused to take part in the US investigation into the incident, exacerbating fears of a prolonged crisis between Pakistan and the United States. Pakistan, reacting to fury from its people over the attack, shut down NATO’s vital supply line into Afghanistan and boycotted the Bonn conference. Pakistan’s decision deals a blow to hopes for drawing up a roadmap for Afghanistan’s future, 10 years after Germany staged another international meeting on political transition following the fall of the Taliban.

Karzai also appealed for continued aid to his war-ravaged nation after 2014, when the last NATO combat troops are due to pull out after handing over responsibility for security to Afghan forces. Stressing that Afghanistan will be “more than ever on the frontline,” he said: “If we fail in this war, which threatens all of us, it will mean a return to the situation before 9/11.” The Afghan leader conceded that “sadly we have not been able to provide security and stability to all Afghans -- this is our greatest failure.”

Compiled from AFP and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff