KABUL: Afghan President Hamid Karzai called Thursday for greater international cooperation to stabilise his war-torn country and defeat militants, during the latest round of talks on the future of Afghanistan.
Representatives from 29 countries gathered in Kabul for the day-long conference, just weeks after Nato agreed at a summit in Chicago to stick to plans to withdraw the bulk of 130,000 foreign combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
The Taliban have begun this year’s annual fighting season with a series of attacks which saw US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta admit last week that violence was rising.
Karzai said the help of neighbouring countries and international powers was vital to economic growth and peace in his impoverished country.
He called on Pakistan directly to support nascent efforts to end the 10-year war in Afghanistan.
“Support from these global powers and our neighbours is very important to Afghanistan and to the continued progress of Afghanistan towards stability and economic development,” Karzai told delegates.
“Cooperation of all of us countries in the region, the neighbours, and our allies and Nato that will bring stability not only to Afghanistan but the much-needed relief from terrorism and radicalism and violence.”
The Afghan leader thanked Saudi Arabia for the help it has given in trying to find a political resolution to the war.
“We also very much hope that our brothers and sisters in Pakistan will do same,” Karzai said. “We are already engaged in a serious, deep dialogue with our neighbors in Pakistan as well.”
The Afghan president said that the head of the government-appointed peace council will travel soon to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to seek the two nation’s continued help in talking peace with the Taliban in hopes of ending the war.
Karzai said that successful peace discussions with the Taliban are also one of the most important elements in attaining harmony in the region.
The Afghan president is keen to broker a peace deal with the Taliban, but the militants publicly refuse to talk to his government. Earlier this year, it also announced that it had pulled the plug on nascent contacts with the Americans in Qatar.
Afghanistan’s relations with Pakistan have been clouded by mutual blame for Islamist violence plaguing both countries.
Karzai has consistently called on Pakistan to demolish terror sanctuaries in its semi-autonomous tribal belt.
Last week, Panetta also warned that the United States was running out of patience with Pakistan for not eliminating safe-havens of the Pakistan-based Haqqani network and other militants who attack US troops.
Islamabad denies any support for Haqqani activities and says it is doing everything possible to fight terrorism, saying no country has suffered more.
Thursday’s gathering in Kabul is the second meeting of the so-called “Heart of Asia” countries. The first was held in November in Istanbul.
The participants include: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates and Uzbekistan. Representatives of 15 mostly Western countries and a dozen regional and international organizations are also attending.
The next talks on Afghanistan will be in Tokyo next month and will focus on ways to ensure social progress – governance, economic prospects, health and education.