President Karzai met with the presidents of Turkey and Pakistan in Istanbul on Monday in the fourth trilateral summit to discuss security matters and plans to reach out to some Taliban insurgents. The trilateral summit comes ahead of a regional summit in Istanbul on 26 January and an international conference in London on Thursday. On Sunday, ahead of the trilateral meeting, President Karzai met his Pakistani counterpart President Asif Ali Zardari in an informal gathering with a friendly atmosphere.
Talks with Taliban
A senior Pakistani official with knowledge of the diplomacy involving multiple governments told the Reuters news agency that initiatives were under way to begin negotiations with some factions of the Taliban. In an interview with British media earlier this month, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said that Turkey was ready to try to persuade the Taliban to end the violence and take part in elections. “The Turks are among those working on negotiations with the Taliban — not all the Taliban, it’s being selectively done,” an anonymous official told Reuters. President Hamid Karzai is expected to announce the content of plans to reach out to the Taliban in Istanbul or London this week.
Security and Education Priority
Intelligence chiefs and military officials from Turkey, Pakistan and Afghanistan met before the trilateral summit and then joined the leaders later in the day, Turkish officials said. “We are talking about Afghan ownership,” said a Turkish diplomat. “We want to see a strong Afghanistan, a strong leadership. Hearts and minds of the Afghans have to be won.” Turkey places top priority on the training of the Afghan national army and police as well as the education of Afghans, especially girls. The education ministers of Turkey, Afghanistan and Pakistan met last week in Ankara and signed a joint statement in which Turkey pledged to contribute to the establishment of vocational schools, literacy and schooling of girls.
The trilateral summit will be followed by a regional summit Tuesday in Istanbul that will include Iranian Vice President Mohammad-Reza Rahimi, the Russian deputy prime minister and the foreign ministers of China, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Britain will be represented by David Miliband and the United States by Richard Holbrooke, the country’s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Tuesday’s regional summit will address a wide array of issues requiring regional responses, including trafficking of drugs, arms, and people; trade openness, transport, energy and security. The main aim is to generate a momentum towards regional cooperation in support of Afghanistan. The regional summit in İstanbul will pave the way for an international conference in London on Jan. 28 that may set a timetable for transferring responsibility for some areas to Afghan control.