Karzai, Obama discuss strategic pact, peace drive
KABUL (PAN): President Hamid Karzai and his US counterpart Barack Obama on Friday discussed the proposed strategic cooperation agreement during a videoconference, amid reports that the two countries had struck a deal on the transfer of US-held detainees to Afghan control, a sticking point to the strategic pact.
The Presidential Palace in Kabul said in a statement that the two leaders conferred on developments regarding the peace negotiations with the Taliban and the transfer of US-run prisons to the Afghan government control, an issue that has threatened to derail the long-term partnership.
Karzai also briefed his US counterpart about his recent visit to Pakistan, saying the trip had positive outcome.
Meanwhile, President Karzai, during a telephonic conversation with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, discussed the ongoing peace process, bilateral relations, the current regional situation and the issue of prisons.
Reports said the United States had agreed to hand over detainees to Afghan government control. The detention issue had been one of two major sticking points in negotiations for the strategic partnership agreement between the two countries, with President Karzai insisting on immediate Afghan control of the detainees, and American officials originally favoring a gradual transition until 2014.
Karzai had repeated called for an end to night raids and house searches, another sticking point to the strategic deal.
On March 5, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Janan Musazai said the Afghan government was willing to sign the strategic pact if the United States accepted recommendations of the November traditional Loya Jirga.
Held in mid-November 2011, the grand assembly of elders and government officials proposed the deal should be signed if the US guaranteed respect for Afghanistan’s sovereignty and Islam, in addition to halting night raids.
Meanwhile, the White House confirmed US President Barack Obama and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai through a video conference discussed the progress in the reconciliation process with the Taliban.
“President Karzai updated the President on the security situation in Afghanistan, which has calmed since the events of recent weeks. The two presidents discussed a range of issues of mutual interest, including US-Afghan strategic partnership negotiations, Afghan-led reconciliation, and regional matters,” the White House Press Secretary, Jay Carney, told reporters at his daily news conference.
Obama and Karzai noted progress toward concluding a strategic partnership that reinforces Afghan sovereignty while addressing the practical requirements of transition, Carney said, adding that Karzai updated the US President on developments toward Afghan-led reconciliation talks.
“Finally, the President and President Karzai agreed that it is in both our interest to continue a partnership that is based on mutual respect, and they agreed to stay in close touch in the lead-up to the NATO Summit in Chicago,” Carney said, adding that it was a wide-ranging conversation.
Afghan-led reconciliation process, he argued, is essential to the ultimate resolution of the conflict in Afghanistan. Carney, however, did not tell if Karzai has been invited to the NATO summit in Chicago in May.
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