Pakistan faces rising Afghan war pressure

Pakistan faces rising Afghan war pressure

Pakistan faces rising Afghan war pressure

Turkish President Abdullah Gül (L) shakes hand with his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari in Istanbul. AA photo

Turkey is bringing Pakistani and Afghan leaders together for the first time since the September assassination of former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani put a dent in their ties.

A meeting for the Istanbul Conference for Afghanistan will be held tomorrow in order to draw a road map for regional security and cooperation mechanism, similar to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Turkish diplomats said.

A joint declaration, which is slated to be released at the end of the conference tomorrow, will include a list of confidence-building measures, but its negotiations were continuing yesterday due to some regional countries’ reservations, a Turkish diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

“Some Western countries have proposed that the cooperation become an established mechanism immediately, but some regional countries prefer to extend it to a period of time,” the diplomat said. “They have reservations, because they are not used to work international mechanisms such as the OSCE.”

As the Afghan government and its foreign backers are preparing to withdraw foreign combat troops by the end of 2014, the Afghans have called on the international community to establish dialogue on regional security.

The draft declaration includes measures on cooperation on border security, combating against terror, measures against human and drug trafficking, along with economic and cultural collaboration in areas such as visa facilitation. Setting up a joint data base for economic and trade cooperation, encouraging the private sector to participate in regional development plans, mutually training personnel in economic affairs, fostering dialogue between religions and preserving cultural and religious works are among the other measures.

Issues such as a cross-border security initiative and visa facilitation issues are still being negotiated.

“We propose to establish a group of experts to work to the extent those measures are applicable to the regional countries,” the diplomat said. The group would meet in a few months and start applying some of the confidence-building measures, although some regional countries, such as Pakistan, have requested a slower pace in the process even as Afghanistan insists on immediate action.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, plus foreign ministers from Germany, France, Poland, representatives from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the European Union, the OSCE, NATO, and the United Nations will be attending the conference. Regional countries will include Afghan border nations Pakistan, India, Iran, China, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. There will also be a wider-ranging meeting in Germany in December.

Tripartite meeting

Ahead of the Istanbul conference, the sixth in a series of trilateral meetings between Turkey, Afghanistan and Pakistan, will be held in Istanbul today. President Abdullah Gül met with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai separately yesterday, “in order to check the ground after their bilateral tension following the assassination of Rabbani,” the Turkish diplomat said.

Besides the three leaders, Turkish, Afghan and Pakistani foreign ministers will also come together and sign a cooperation protocol between the interior ministries of the three countries today.

The Turkish General Staff and his Afghan and Pakistani counterparts will also meet up for the first time after a long time period and sign a modest cooperation protocol.

The often tense relationship between Washington and Islamabad aside, the U.S. said insurgents abetted by Pakistan pose the big threat to U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan. As the Afghan and Pakistani intelligence services have a long history of mistrust, there have been frequent accusations that the Pakistan military has backed Taliban militants. Pakistani army officials, meanwhile, have concerns that India could obtain more influence in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, Turkey condemned on Oct. 30 the recent attacks against a convoy of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul.