Afghan, Pakistan leaders invited to meet in Turkey
The leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan will hold a three-way meeting with Turkish President Abdullah Gul in the near future, Afghanistan's Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta said.
Spanta, speaking after talks in Washington with Deputy U.S. Secretary of State John Negroponte, also said he did not doubt the "determination and will" of newly-elected civilian government in Pakistan to address terrorism, reported Reuters.
Gul invited Afghan President Hamid Karzai to a meeting with President Asif ali Zardari, Spanta said.
"In principle we accepted this invitation. We have to look for a date which is acceptable for three parties," he told reporters at the State Department.
Spanta, speaking in English, said the first such trilateral had been hosted by the Turkish president a year and a half ago "and we continue this trilateral institution as a possibility to continue the discussion."
As for the new Pakistani government, "We have to give them more time and a chance for -- to be in charge on the security and military issues," Spanta said.
Muslim, secular and democratic, NATO-member Turkey has of late been playing a greater role on the global stage.
Karzai has urged neighbor Pakistan and the international community to help eliminate sanctuaries terrorists use to attack his beleaguered country.
The Taliban and al Qaeda insurgents, fighting to topple Karzai's government, use Pakistan's tribal areas to launch attacks in Afghanistan. Around 3,000 people have been killed there so far this year -- the worst violence since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.
Frustrated by an intensifying Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, the United States has stepped up attacks on militants in Pakistan.
In an incident on Thursday the Pentagon said U.S. military aircraft inside Afghanistan had been fired on by Pakistani forces; a Pakistani military spokesman said the helicopters were in Pakistani territory.
Negroponte told reporters that "significant progress" had been made in Afghanistan over the last seven years, with many top leaders of the Taliban and al Qaeda captured or killed.
He also said U.S. forces in Afghanistan take "every precaution" to avoid harming any civilian during military operations. Karzai is expected to bring up civilian casualties when he sees Bush at the White House on Friday.