Friday, November 4, 2011

Turkey meet looks beyond U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan

Dubai, November 4, 2011(Tehelkanews)

Representatives of 27 countries have held a major brainstorming exercise in Turkey ahead of the expected withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan, to evolve a consensus based mechanism that will ensure stability and prosperity in the war-torn country.The Istanbul conference , which has a core regional component that includes Presidents of Afghanistan and Turkey as well as foreign ministers from India, Pakistan and Iran, was the first major step to draw a road map for completing a peaceful transition in Afghanistan, notwithstanding the slated pull out of foreign troops by 2014-end. A string of international meetings are in the offing which will culminate in a mega-conference in Bonn that Afghanistan alone would host in December this year.

The high profile delegates at the conclave that was co-hosted by Turkey and Afghanistan examined three core issues. These were preventing Afghanistan's emergence in the future as a battleground for regional rivals, national security of Afghanistan which is under threat of destabilisation from the Taliban, and ensuring that sufficient number of jobs were created in the country so that young people of Afghanistan were kept away from taking up arms or indulging in terrorism and drug-trafficking.

Addressing delegates, Turkey's President Abdullah Gul pointed to regional collaboration as the key instrument to ensure a bright future for Afghanistan. Turkey's foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu reinforced his President's view by asserting that a "rationalist regional approach" was required to tackle Afghanistan's daunting "peace and stability" challenges. Alluding to the high level of mistrust in the region, he advocated planting "confidence building measures," that would encourage cooperation.

The talks on Wednesday were preceded by a trilateral summit on Tuesday of Turkey, Pakistan and Afghanistan, where Afghan President, Hamid Karzai declared that the killing of former Afghan President and peace negotiator, Burhanuddin Rabbani had badly disrupted the government-sponsored peace process involving Afghans and the Taliban.

Afghanistan has at regular intervals accused Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of supporting Taliban militants. Unsurprisingly, the Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Jawed Ludin told reporters that Pakistan had to move beyond "expressions of commitments" and undertake concrete measures, including action against the supposedly pro-ISI Haqqani network, in order to repose trust.

Defending his country's position, Pakistan President Asef Ali Zardari said that the situation in the region "is a very complex one," and was caused by factors which were beyond Pakistan's control. "Obviously there are interest groups, obviously there are non-state actors, whenever we go three steps forward some state actor, non-state actor or some interest group moves in," he observed.

Sensing the damage caused by Rabbani's assassination to the peace process, the Turks have gone into overdrive to remove this irritant. At the end of the trilateral talks, Turkey announced that Afghanistan and Pakistan had decided to jointly investigate the former President's killing. Turkey's President, showing awareness about the mistrust between the two countries, said that on the request of his counterparts from Afghanistan and Pakistan, Ankara had decided to make its contribution to make this mechanism work, the Turkish daily Zaman reported.

Despite Turkey's herculean effort, Mr. Karzai signaled on Wednesday that the crisis caused on account of Rabbani's killing had not blown away. \"We have tried to distance Taliban and other factions from violence and cut their ties with Al-Qaeda, by including them into the peace process. But latest incident (Rabbani's killing) showed that the process proved unsuccessful," Mr. Karzai said during his inaugural address.

Calling for a regional security initiative, Iran's foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi asserted that NATO's mission in Afghanistan had failed. Upon his arrival at Istanbul airport ahead of the conference, Mr. Salehi called for a "collective security cooperation among the regional states" to overcome challenges faced by Afghanistan.

Emphasising regional economic cooperation, India's external affairs minister, S.M.Krishna called for establishing a collaborative economic framework between South and Central Asia.

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