Tue, Dec 16, 2008 - Page 6 News List

Afghanistan summit ends with a vague agreement

AGENCIES , PARIS

Top envoys from Afghanistan, its neighbors and the international powers agreed on Sunday to work together to restore stability in the war-torn state.

“There can be no long-term security and peace in the region without a stable, secure, prosperous and democratic Afghanistan,” they said in a statement released after a one-day conference in Paris.

The envoys “expressed their support for existing initiatives to reinforce cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighbors [and] committed to the effective implementation of these initiatives.”

But, apart from a vague agreement “to work more closely to strengthen border security as a key component of counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism,” no concrete measures were announced.

Afghan Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta said: “We need a global strategy against terrorism.”

UN envoy Kai Eide said: “We agreed to work together to control borders, and also to build the economic growth this region needs.”

The conference got off to a bad start when Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki failed to turn up. The Iranian Foreign Ministry said yesterday that he did not attend because of “undiplomatic comments” by France.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, an outspoken critic of Iran since coming to office last year, said last Monday that he could not shake hands with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for saying Israel should be “wiped off the map.”

He also said Ahmadinejad did not represent Iran.

The one-day meeting included foreign ministers and senior officials from Pakistan, India, Russia, China, Britain and the US. The aim was to find ways to bring Afghanistan out of its seemingly endless state of war, and to urge neighboring states, especially Pakistan and Iran, to play a more positive role.

The conference hosts want to involve more Afghans in work to stabilize the country, but French officials had played down expectations of rapid progress, noting that little new in the way of policy can be decided until US president-elect Barack Obama takes office on Jan. 20.

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