PARIS, Dec 11: France is trying to ease tensions in Afghanistan by talking to parties there and sees Pakistan as key to stabilising the region, President Francois Hollande said on Tuesday.
France is hosting a rare face-to-face gathering of Afghanistan’s major players, including the Taliban, next week. The cooperation of Pakistan is seen as pivotal to reviving peace talks.
President Hollande, who met President Asif Ali Zardari here on Tuesday, said they talked about what would happen when international troops left Afghanistan.
“We are well aware of the risks,” said Mr Hollande, who ordered France’s combat troops out of Afghanistan by the end of this month, ahead of Nato’s planned 2014 withdrawal.
Mr Hollande stressed Pakistan’s role in helping stabilise the region and said France’s role “is talking to everyone, is to ease these tensions and then enable peace”.
Mr Zardari said Pakistan was “working against the threat of the terrorism mindset”.
Neither leader gave details about the upcoming meeting on Afghanistan’s future to be organised outside Paris by a French think tank.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said on Monday that representatives of the group would attend the closed-door meeting, but would not discuss peace and reconciliation.
Representatives from Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, political parties opposed to the Taliban, and the militant Islamist group Hezb-i-Islami also are expected to attend.
President Hollande hailed Malala Yousufzai as a global emblem of the thirst for knowledge. He said the 15-year-old was the “symbol of a young girl who fought for access to knowledge and education”, adding: “We all share Malala’s spirit.”
BILATERAL TIES: During the talks, Pakistan and France agreed to enhance cooperation in different fields, including education, health, business and trade and energy.
Addressing a joint press conference, Presidents Hollande and Zardari said they had discussed regional situation as well as bilateral cooperation.
President Zardari said Pakistan and France were good partners and expressed the hope that cooperation and coordination would continue in future.
Replying to a question on cooperation in energy sector, Mr Hollande said France would extend its full help and cooperation to Pakistan to meet its energy requirements.
The French president said both the leaders had also discussed the nuclear issue.
President Zardari said the existing level of bilateral relations and cooperation provided solid basis for transforming the relationship into a comprehensive strategic partnership encompassing the entire spectrum of ties in political, security, trade, culture and science and education fields for mutual benefit.—Agencies
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