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Turkey to host international meetings on Afghanistan

Last Updated: Saturday, January 23, 2010 - 13:23

Istanbul: Turkey hosts a meeting of Afghanistan`s neighbours next week to seek a common approach to the conflict that could centre on gathering international support for negotiating some kind of peace with the Taliban.
The regional meeting in Istanbul on Tuesday will pave the way for an international conference in London on January 28 that may set a timetable for transferring responsibility for some areas to Afghan control.

Muslim Turkey is also hosting a meeting of the presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan on Monday, and will bring together intelligence and military officials from the two countries with a history of deep mutual mistrust.

A senior Pakistani official with knowledge of the diplomacy involving multiple governments said initiatives were underway to begin negotiations with some Taliban and this was likely to surface during the meetings in Istanbul and London.

"The Turks are playing a behind-the-scenes roll patching up relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan," the official said. "There`s a lot happening behind the scenes that people don`t know about."

Turkey, a NATO member, has a special relationship with both Afghanistan and Pakistan that can be traced back to the Ottoman Empire`s ties to South and Central Asia, and was using its influence to bring an end to the conflict with the Taliban.

"The Turks are among those working on negotiations with the Taliban -- not all the Taliban, it`s being selectively done."

The Afghans believe Pakistan`s Inter-Services Intelligence service covertly supports Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, and allows the insurgency to be directed from Pakistani soil.

Pakistan`s military suspect Afghan intelligence of working with old rival India to cause trouble on its western border, and support separatists in the Pakistani province of Baluchistan.

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates on Thursday urged Pakistan to begin hunting down Afghan Taliban on the border.

Ahmed Rashid, a respected Pakistani journalist and author who is often consulted by Western policymakers, said Karzai would use the Istanbul and London meetings to pitch for support for negotiations to end the Taliban insurgency.

"The key issue at the London conference and the meetings leading up to it will be whether neighbouring countries will support dialogue with the Taliban, which Karzai will advocate."

"Karzai can be expected to set out reasons for a tactical dialogue and for a strategic dialogue with the Taliban leadership."

Bureau Report

First Published: Saturday, January 23, 2010 - 13:23
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