Stage set for Bonn conference
Global political, economic and military assistance to Afghanistan beyond 2014, security transition, strategic cooperation, regional cooperation and the reconciliation process are high on the agenda for the major meeting.
The Afghan-led gathering will be opened by President Hamid Karzai and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at 9am (German time), and will continue until 6pm. Merkel said they would try to convince the world that a stable Afghanistan was in their interest.
Although Pakistan has boycotted the meeting in protest against an ISAF attack on its security posts in the lawless Mohmand tribal region, there are indications it may attend the moot at a lower level.
Last night, US President Barack Obama held a telephonic conversation with his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari. Diplomats claimed some breakthrough had been made and Islamabad might send a representative to the talks.
A day earlier, US Foreign Secretary Harley Clinton urged Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to join the Bonn Conference, but he rejected the proposal.
The Iranian foreign minister will also skip the conference. Instead Tehran will send a low-ranking delegation. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Karim Agha Khan are already in the city.
Janan Musazai, a spokesman for the foreign ministry, told Pajhwok Afghan News the Afghan government delegation included 65 people, including 11 women.
In an interview with Der Spiegel weekly, Karzai blamed Pakistan for undermining his government's negotiations with the militants. "Up until now, they have sadly refused to back efforts for negotiations with the Taliban."
Urging continued global aid to his nation beyond 2014, the president warned: "If we fail in this war, which threatens all of us, it will mean a return to the situation before 9/11."
He went on to acknowledge the security situation remained far from satisfactory. "Sadly we have not been able to provide security and stability to all Afghans -- this is our greatest failure."
According to Westerwelle, the conference is a clear message from the international community that it will not leave the country alone after 2014. "We are proud of once again hosting an important conference about the future of Afghanistan."
The picturesque venue of the meeting, a centre for conferences near the German parliament building, had hosted the first meeting on Afghanistan after the collapse of the Taliban regime in December 2001. A transitional authority, headed by Karzai, was set up in the wake of the moot.
Eight more conferences on Afghanistan have since been organised. The International Conference on Reconstruction Assistance to Afghanistan was held, at a ministerial level, on Jan. 21-22, 2002 in Tokyo with the participation of the Chairman of the Afghan Interim Administration, Hamid Karzai and other representatives of the Administration.
Japan, the US, the EU and Saudi Arabia were co-chairs of the conference, where donor countries announced $4.5 billion in assistance to Afghanistan.
Later, a similar event was held in Berlin on March 31 - April 1, 2004, in which $8.5 billion assistance was pledged, while id="mce_marker"05 billion were announced at the London Conference in 2006. In June, 2007, $730 million help was announced at the Rome Conference and $21 billion at the Paris Conference in June 2008.
In March 2009, the situation in Afghanistan was discussed at the Hague Conference. In January 2010, $33 billion aid was pledged at the second London Conference. On July 20, 2010, the Kabul moot gave the go-ahead to security transition, discussing key infrastructure projects and mine extraction.
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