Afghans seek security aid at Istanbul meeting

Officials ask for more funding and pressure on Pakistan at conference in Turkey aimed at bolstering regional stability.

    The leaders of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkey have held trilateral talks in Istanbul before a major conference in the Turkish city to discuss regional security and co-operation.

    Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, and Asif Ali Zardari, his Pakistani counterpart, were hosted by the Turkish president, Abdullah Gul, at the Ottoman-era Ciragan Palace overlooking the Bosphorus on Tuesday.

    The leaders discussed deteriorating relations amid a surge in deadly attacks in Afghanistan, sources said.

    US and Afghan officials have blamed Pakistan's military intelligence agency, ISI, for supporting the Haqqani network, a faction of the Taliban that apparently carried out the recent targeted attacks, an allegation that Pakistan has vehemently denied. 

    Karzai, speaking at a press conference after the meeting, ruled out resuming peace talks with the Taliban that have been suspended since the assassination of his chief negotiator.

    "We cannot keep talking to suicide bombers, therefore we have stopped talking about talking to the Taliban until we have an address for the Taliban ... until that day we have said we will be talking to our brothers in Pakistan to find a solution to the problem that we have," he said.

    "We have been hurt badly, our desire for peace has been either misunderstood or misused and we have learnt a lesson from the manner in which we pursued the peace process."

    Regional stability

    The international conference in Istanbul on Wednesday is aimed at charting a path to regional stability and co-operation beyond the US withdrawal date of 2014.

    Fourteen regional countries, including China, India, Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, are expected to take part in the meeting, titled Security and Co-operation in the Heart of Asia.

    Germany, France and other Western countries with troops deployed in Afghanistan were expected to send envoys to show their support.

    Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, was scheduled to attend the meeting, but cancelled at the last minute because of her mother's illness.

    In the lead-up to the conference, Afghan officials have highlighted the country's security needs, hoping to gain further support from crucial regional as well as international players.

    Along with the $5bn annual cost, Afghan military officials are asking for help in ground and technology training.

    Additionaly, Afghanistan will also be asking for greater pressure on Pakistan to go after the sanctuaries of armed groups on its territory.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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