Pak must respect Afghan sovereignty

Washington: At the Istanbul conference on Afghanistan later this week, neighbouring countries, Pakistan in particular will be asked to make a firm commitment to respect and honour the sovereignty of this war-torn South Asian nation, US officials said today.

"We are urging all of Afghanistan`s neighbours to commit to a set of principles…that underscore full respect for Afghan sovereignty and territory," a Senior State Department official told reporters during a conference call ahead of the Istanbul meeting beginning November 2.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar will be among the senior diplomats from 20 countries joining representatives from aid organisations at the talks in Istanbul.
The meet is intended to map out Afghanistan`s future with the US-led NATO mission already locked into troop drawdowns that are scheduled to bring all foreign combat troops home by 2014.

The key participants to this conference being co-chaired by both Afghanistan and Turkey are the regional partners are China, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, India, Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE; besides the United States, Japan and key European players.

"So from our perspective, the neighbours and near neighbours will use this as an opportunity to do probably four things in a declaration like that: reiterate a shared commitment to sovereignty,; second, endorse transition to Afghan security leadership," the State Department official said. The neighbours should "also endorse Afghan efforts for a political solution; and then, fourth, to build towards a sustainable Afghan economy that can help to achieve the new Silk Road regional economic vision,"

Clinton, would be travelling to Istanbul for this the conference. "Given the importance that Pakistan plays in helping to resolve Afghanistan, we`ve been working very closely with the Pakistani delegation on finding language that all parties can uphold and promote on the recognition of sovereignty," the official said in response to a question.

Referring to the recent talks between India and Pakistan on improving trade and economic ties between the two countries, the official termed it as a positive and encouraging sign for long-term peace in the region.

"We have seen some very positive steps from both the Indians and the Pakistanis over the past few months on facilitating more trade between the countries, which is in the national security and economic interests of both countries," the official said. "Similarly, we`ve talked with China about kind of key roles that they can play.

And obviously, both countries recognise the enormous interests that they have in stability in the region, and the ways that they would benefit from that. So we will — we will continue those conversations with them," the official said.