Afghan, Pakistani Leaders to Meet in Istanbul

Posted November 1st, 2011 at 2:25 am (UTC-5)
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Afghan President Hamid Karzai will meet with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari Tuesday at a summit in Istanbul aimed at improving relations between the two neighbors.

The meeting, hosted by Turkish President Abdullah Gul, will attempt to settle big differences between the two governments, who are locked in a diplomatic dispute over Pakistan's alleged support of insurgents in Afghanistan.

Some Afghan officials accuse Pakistan's intelligence service of supporting the Taliban and the al-Qaida-linked Haqqani network in order to gain influence in Afghanistan ahead of the pullout of NATO-led troops in 2014.

Afghanistan also suspects Pakistani involvement in the September killing of Afghan peace envoy and former president Burhanuddin Rabbani.

Pakistan denies both charges.

Tuesday's meeting between Mr. Karzai and Mr. Zardari will be followed by a regional conference on Afghanistan attended by leaders from 14 countries, including France, Germany and India.

Afghanistan upset Pakistan earlier this month by signing a strategic partnership agreement aimed at boosting trade, security and cultural links with India – Islamabad's long-time rival.

But last month, President Karzai said his country would “stand with Pakistan” if it were attacked by either the United States or India.

Analysts say Mr. Karzai's comments were likely not a serious statement of policy, but rather an overture to Pakistan, whose cooperation is sorely needed if Afghanistan is to have a chance at stability after years of conflict and civil war.