Karzai stresses regional help

Nov. 2, 2011 at 11:45 PM
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ISTANBUL, Turkey, Nov. 2 (UPI) -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai told an international conference in Turkey without cooperation from regional countries peace "will remain elusive" in Afghanistan.

The one-day conference among 13 countries in Istanbul was called to consider Afghanistan's security and development after U.S. and NATO withdraw their troops by 2014. The conference came a day after the Turkish president hosted a summit between Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to reduce tensions between their countries over the issue of havens for terror groups.

Karzai told the conference his country's top priority is to end terrorism and violence, The Wall Street Journal reported.

"Unless regional cooperation is assured to address the core and root of this [terrorism] issue, peace in Afghanistan will remain elusive," Karzai said.

Although Pakistan has denied the accusations, Afghan and U.S. officials have said terror groups such as the Taliban-linked Haqqani network that launch attacks in Afghanistan receive support from the Pakistani intelligence agency.

Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul told a news conference the "Istanbul process," would require the regional countries not allowing their territories from becoming safe havens for terrorists, the Voice of America reported.

"[The] process will allow countries in the heart of Asia to implement important confidence building measures, toward a more effective, broader and deeper regional cooperation that promotes security, stability and economic development in our region," Rassoul said.

On talks for reconciliation with the Taliban, Karzai urged Pakistan to bring the group's leaders to the negotiations as Islamabad is seen as playing a major role in the process.

VOA quoted observers the success of the Istanbul meetings will be determined by improvement in the relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"They both have a vested issue in dealing with the scourge of terrorism, and we believe they both have a vested interest in making sure that those who can abide by the conditions set out by President Karzai for inclusion in the political process should come back into the political process," Alistair Burt, Britain's minister for the region, said.

At the summit, Zardari and Karzai agreed their governments would cooperate in investigating the September assassination of former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who had headed the high peace council to negotiate with the Taliban.

India, Iran, Saudi Arabia, China and Russia were among those countries that attended the conference and signed the "Istanbul Process."

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had to cancel her attendance due to the death of her mother. Her place was taken by Deputy Secretary William Burns and the United States was not required to sign the Istanbul Process.

A larger conference on Afghanistan with about 90 countries participating is set for next month in Bonn, Germany.

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