Turkey, Pakistan vow support for Afghan dialogue

Turkey, Pakistan vow support for Afghan dialogue
# 13 April 2011 20:34 (UTC +04:00)
Baku – APA. Turkey and Pakistan Wednesday voiced support for initiatives to stabilise conflict-torn Afghanistan, including efforts for dialogue with the Taliban, APA reports quoting AFP.
Presidents Abdullah Gul of Turkey and Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan 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 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.
Zerdari, on an official visit to Turkey, said Pakistan "believes in a peaceful transition and dialogue" in Afganistan, its western neighbour 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, 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, 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.
Afghanistan has been in the grip of a deadly insurgency waged by remnants of the Taliban since their regime was toppled in a US-led invasion in 2001, with the militants holding rear bases in Pakistan.
There are around 140,000 international troops in Afghanistan, including a Turkish contingent. They are due to start limited withdrawals from July with the Afghan police and army scheduled to take full control of security by 2014.
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