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Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-01-25

The leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan will seek mutual cooperation in the fight against militants during a summit in Istanbul on Monday, but a plan to talk to Taliban insurgents will likely dominate discussions.

REUTERS - The leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan will seek closer cooperation in the fight against militants during a summit in Istanbul on Monday, but a plan to reach out to Taliban insurgents will likely dominate the talks.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari meet ahead of a London conference where Afghanistan and the international community are set to agree a framework for Kabul to take responsibility for its own security.

The two men will hold a bilateral meeting before three-way talks with host President Abdullah Gul of Turkey, which has been working behind the scenes to repair relations between Islamabad and Kabul, notably over negotiations with the Taliban.

“We have been working with the Afghans and the Pakistanis on this,” said a Turkish official who asked not to be named.

Pakistan has long played an important role in Afghan affairs, having nurtured the Afghan Taliban during the 1990s, but Kabul remains suspicious that Islamabad is pursuing its own agenda in the country to the detriment of Afghanistan.

Despite battling its own Pakistan Taliban insurgency it has been reluctant to tackle the Afghan Taliban, believing it might need them to counter regional rival India’s growing influence in the country should U.S.-led forces withdraw.

Karzai, under intense pressure from his Western backers to strengthen Afghanistan’s security forces at a time of worsening violence, is preparing a programme to reintegrate some Taliban insurgents in order to encourage them to lay down arms.

Pakistan is seeking to play a role in that process. The Foreign Ministry said on Saturday it was reaching out to “all levels” of the Afghan Taliban in a bid to encourage peace in its neighbour.

After arriving in Istanbul late on Sunday, Zardari met Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, who has raised Turkey’s profile and clout in the Muslim world since his Islamist-rooted AK Party took power in 2002. Erdogan met Karzai separately.

Regional players

U.S. President Barack Obama, who is sending 30,000 extra troops to Afghanistan, has said a political solution was needed to stabilise Afghanistan and has emphasised that success would not be possible without the support of Pakistan.

Ahead of the international conference in London, Turkey is hosting a meeting of Afghanistan’s neighbours on Tuesday to seek a common approach to the conflict.

British officials say they want to persuade regional players to work together to help stabilise Afghanistan.

Turkey has said foreign ministry officials from Iran, China, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Pakistan will attend as well as British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and U.S. Special envoy Richard Holbrooke’s deputy, Paul Jones.

Date created : 2010-01-25

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