Pakistan, Turkey vow support for Afghan dialogue | Pakistan Today

Pakistan, Turkey vow support for Afghan dialogue

ANKARA – Pakistan and Turkey voiced support for initiatives to stabilise conflict-torn Afghanistan on Wednesday, including efforts for dialogue with the Taliban.
President Asif Ali Zardari and Turkish President Abdullah Gul made the pledges in response to a question on whether Ankara had agreed to host a representation office for the Taliban and whether Islamabad would be ready to help any dialogue process.
“2011 is a very critical year for Afghanistan… as the foreign troops will begin to withdraw… We are using all our capabilities to secure Afghanistan’s unity and integrity,” Gul told a joint press conference. “We are doing this in cooperation with Afghan President (Hamid) Karzai and all Afghan authorities… We will be part of any activity (aimed at) making further contributions to secure durable peace,” he said.
He would not comment directly on the possible opening of a Taliban office in Turkey. Zardari, on an official visit to Turkey, said Pakistan believed in a peaceful transition and dialogue in Afghanistan, with whom relations have often been strained over insecurity plaguing their border. “We’ll be facilitators to any format that leads to peace… Whatever needs to be done, Pakistan will be playing a positive role and hoping to facilitate the transition and dialogue,” he said.
In December, President Karzai spoke of suggestions that the Taliban open a representation office in Turkey or another impartial country to facilitate reconciliation in Afghanistan, saying he would be happy if Turkey could provide such a venue. In February, Turkey pledged to help Afghanistan’s High Council for Peace (HCP), a body tasked with seeking dialogue with the Taliban, following talks with its chairman.
Karzai set up the HCP last year to pursue talks with the Taliban in return for them laying down arms and accepting the constitution. The Taliban have publicly rejected the peace overtures. Turkey, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)’s sole Muslim-majority member, has also organised talks between leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan since 2007 to push them to cooperate against Islamist insurgents.
The two leaders also said that the talks focused on making operational the Islamabad-Istanbul-Tehran freight train. President Gul said that the project would provide a trade route from Islamabad to European countries, with goods taking around 11 days to reach Turkish markets. He said that the railroad track already existed but it needed to be upgraded and both countries agreed to encourage private sectors to generate funds for the project.
Zardari told his Turkish counterpart of the policies that made Pakistan an attractive place for investment for Turkish companies, which were already active in the country on numerous important projects. The president was assisted in the talks by Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar, Railways Minister Ghulam Ahmed Bilour, Foreign Affairs Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and Board of Investment Chairman Saleem Mandviwala.
Zardari said the Supreme Court’s decision to accept a reference filed by him to revisit the “judicial murder” of Pakistan People’s Party founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was a “landmark” decision that was reflective of “political and democratic growth” in the country. Gul conferred on Zardari the highest Turkish State Order Medal “Devlet Nishan” in a investiture ceremony. Zardari said the award was “a special honour that has deeply touched me. I will always cherish it as a great personal treasure.”
Separately, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt General Ahmad Shuja Pasha met President Zardari in Turkey, private Dawn News channel reported. The ISI chief told the president about his meeting with Central Intelligence Agency chief Leon Panetta and briefed him on the topics of discussion, which included drone attacks and national security.
The ISI chief is also scheduled to meet his Turkish counterpart during the visit to set up a mechanism for better information-sharing between the two countries.

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