LONDON: British Prime Minister David Cameron will meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai and President Asif Ali Zardari this weekend, ahead of a key summit on bringing peace to war-torn Afghanistan, Downing Street said on Saturday.
The premier will dine with Mr Zardari and Mr Karzai at his country retreat Chequers in Buckinghamshire, southeast England, on Sunday.
He will then hold a trilateral summit with both leaders and their aides on Monday, to discuss the prevention of a Taliban resurgence when foreign troops leave.
“The prime minister will host the leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan at Chequers on Sunday and Monday as part of his ongoing efforts to help to strengthen Afghanistan-Pakistan relations, support an Afghan peace and reconciliation process and promote regional peace and stability,” a Downing Street spokesperson said.
“For the first time, we will bring together the political and security establishments from both Afghanistan and Pakistan, with foreign ministers, chiefs of army staff, chiefs of intelligence and the chair of the Afghan High Peace Council attending the meeting.
“Discussions are expected to focus on the Afghan-led peace process and how the Pakistanis and international community can support it. We also expect the Afghans and Pakistanis to make further progress on the Strategic Partnership Agreement they committed to in September.”
Mr Karzai flew to London on Saturday for a three-day trip, during which he would also meet Prince Charles.
“The talks in this summit will be focused on ways to accelerate peace process in Afghanistan and further strengthen cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan in the fight against terrorism and extremism,” said a statement issued by Mr Karzai’s office.
A spokesman for President’s House in Pakistan meanwhile told AFP that Mr Zardari was already in London.
Back in December, Mr Cameron had announced Britain would withdraw 3,800 of the country’s 9,000 troops from Afghanistan in 2013, as Nato prepares for a full security handover to Afghan forces at the end of next year.
There are growing concerns that a civil war could erupt as the US-led Nato troops leave the country.
Monday’s talks will meanwhile be the third trilateral session since last year, after meetings in Kabul in July and in New York in September.
“This trilateral process sends a very clear message to the Taliban: now is the time for everyone to participate in a peaceful political process in Afghanistan,” added Downing Street.
“As the prime minister has set out previously, a stable Afghanistan is not just in the interests of Afghans, but also in the interests of their neighbours and the UK.
“We share the same vision for Afghanistan: a secure, stable and democratic country that never again becomes a haven for international terror.
“We are working together to achieve it and Afghanistan’s neighbours have a vital role to play. It is vital not just for the future security of their citizens, but for their prosperity too.”—AFP
APP adds: Pakistan has always said it fully supports an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process in the war-stricken country.
Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf visited Kabul last August and discussed the issue with Afghan leadership. In September, President Zardari, President Karzai and Prime Minister Cameron held talks at the UN headquarters on the sidelines of the annual meeting of UN heads of state and government to keep the momentum going for finding a solution to Afghan imbroglio.