12 states invited to Paris meeting on Afghanistan

December 05, 2008

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PARIS, Dec 4: France has invited a dozen states to a conference on Afghanistan on Dec 14 to enlist the support of neighbouring countries in a stepped-up effort for peace, officials said on Thursday.

“Apart from Afghanistan and its immediate neighbours (Pakistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan), India and China have been invited as countries from the region,” said a French foreign ministry spokesman.

The United Nations special representative for Afghanistan, Kai Eide, has been invited to the informal ministerial meeting along with representatives of the United States, Britain and Russia, he said.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana was also due to attend the Paris talks, six months after a donors’ conference in France, which currently holds the EU presidency, raised $20 billion for reconstruction in Afghanistan.

French officials see Pakistan, alleged to be the staging ground for Taliban attacks, as key to stabilising Afghanistan, which remains mired in poverty and violence more than six years after US-led forces drove the extremist militia out of Kabul.

About 70,000 US and Nato-led troops are fighting the Taliban.

The Paris meeting comes just over a month before president-elect Barack Obama takes office on a promise to shift the United States’ strategic focus from the war in Iraq to Afghanistan.

—AFP