Karzai seeks neighbours' help in terror fight
ISTANBUL (PAN): Taliban and other militant leaders could join the peace process if they gave up violence, severed ties with Al Qaeda and returned to a peaceful life under the Afghan Constitution, President Hamid Karzai said on Wednesday.
"However, as recent setbacks have indicated, the peace process will not succeed unless we are able to get the top leadership of the Taliban, based in Pakistan, to join it," the president told a regional conference on Afghanistan's future in Istanbul.
At the two-day event in Istanbul, representatives from 20 countries have joined aid agency members to map out Afghanistan's future after the withdrawal of US and NATO-led combat troops from the country by 2014.
With help from Pakistan, Karzai hoped, his government would manage to wean Taliban leadership away from some of the long-established networks of support they enjoyed outside Afghanistan and integrate them into the peace process.
He billed as a crucial priority the ongoing transition process, which would ultimately see the complete transfer of security responsibility from international forces to Afghans by the end of 2014. The first phase of transition took place in July, and the second is due in the near future.
With the implementation of the second phase, the president said, half of Afghanistan’s population would come under the security umbrella provided by their national security institutions.
Afghan people's long-cherished desire for peace and security could not be achieved, because terrorists continued to enjoy sanctuaries outside Afghanistan, he regretted. "Until we see a more concerted effort across the region to confront terrorism, peace in Afghanistan will remain elusive."
Karzai called the second Bonn Conference, slated for December 5, an opportunity to take stock of Afghanistan's major achievements over the past decade. "We will share our vision for the next 10 years - it will be a vision of consolidating Afghanistan as a stable and democratic country, with a prospering economy."
He said they would seek a new paradigm of cooperation from the international community, one that recognised the sovereignty of his country. "I have often called Pakistan and Afghanistan conjoined twins, and the mutual dependence of both countries in terms of security, as well as social and economic development, bears out this analogy.
China, Russia, India and Turkey have enormous sway at the global level and, as such, could be influential in shaping a peaceful, friendly and economically prospering region, he remarked. "We attach enormous importance to the strategic partnership we are currently negotiating with the US and other partners, including the UK and the European Union.
The arrangements would guarantee Afghanistan’s security and stability, besides fuelling its future economic development, the president said, explaining: " Let me be very clear on this point: neither our strategic partnership with the US, nor any other partnerships we will forge in the future, shall be a threat to our neighbours…"
To him, the meeting in Istanbul promised new horizons of regional cooperation, and where the real pull factor is common challenges and opportunities. The region had been the focus of international attention, both desirable and undesirable reasons, he concluded.
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