Russia, Afghanistan, Pakistan pledge Taliban fight

Other News Materials 16 June 2009 03:13 (UTC +04:00)

Russia, Pakistan and Afghanistan called for stronger regional cooperation in fighting the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, Reuters reported.

U.S. President Barack Obama has made better international cooperation on Afghanistan an important element of his plan to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan where violence is at its worst level since U.S.-led forces toppled the Islamists in 2001.

"I think what is missing in this war ... is that the neighbors haven't been involved, the region has not been involved," Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said at the start of the meeting on the sidelines of a regional conference.

Russia is hosting a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg. The SCO groups Russia, China and the four ex-Soviet Central Asian states of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.

Pakistan, is an observer in the SCO and Afghan President Hamid Karzai was also invited to the summit, in which the war in Afghanistan is one of key topics.

"If we manage to work out an efficient, workable tri-lateral mechanism it will benefit our nations and help solve tasks we are facing," Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said after a three-way meeting with Zardari and Karzai.

Russia backed the 2001 U.S.-led operation to topple the Taliban after the September 11 attacks, but later, Russia became critical of the Western conduct of the operation saying hostilities destabilized the region and encouraged drug traffic.

Russia rules out playing any role in the military operation in Afghanistan, but it has allowed the delivery of non-lethal supplies to Western forces through its territory.

Moscow has also vowed economic aid to Afghanistan and has written off over $10 billion of Kabul's debt.

Instability in Pakistan, bordering Afghanistan, and tensions between Pakistan and India - Moscow's traditional regional ally - are also seen by Russia as a security threat.

Russian leaders say a stronger involvement of the regional states in solving the Afghan conflict could reduce tensions.

"I am sure this initial step will take us further into expansion of relations between us ... and an effective fight against terrorism," Karzai told the meeting.

Before the three-way talks, Medvedev had separate meetings with Karzai and Zardari.

"We are ready for cooperation with Pakistan in all aspects of the fight against terrorism," he told Zardari, urging better economic ties with the country viewed in Moscow as a U.S. ally.

"We think it is important that the situation in the region becomes calmer and healthier," he added. "I think this will help ... to preserve Pakistan as a single and strong state."

Speaking to Karzai, Medvedev said Russia was interested in Afghanistan creating a "modern political system," referring to presidential polls in the country due in August.

Forty candidates will challenge Karzai in the polls.

"To you personally, Mr President, I wish success in the upcoming political events," Medvedev told Karzai.