Pakistan to boycott international conference on Afghanistan
Pakistan said on Tuesday it would boycott an international conference on Afghanistan next month in protest of the NATO attack on Pakistani army posts that killed 24 soldiers and sparked anti-western protests in the country, dpa reported.
The government made the decision at a cabinet meeting in the eastern city of Lahore, chaired by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.
"Pakistan looks forward to the success of this conference but in view of the developments and prevailing circumstances has decided not to participate," said a statement issued at the end of the meeting.
Germany will host an international conference on peace in Afghanistan on Monday in the city of Bonn, where delegations from some 100 countries will discuss the future of the country.
Pakistan's decision is a blow to the conference. Many observers believe Pakistan is key to securing a peaceful future for Afghanistan, given their geographical and cultural proximity and the need for Pakistan's military in the war against Taliban insurgency.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she regretted Pakistan's decision not to attend.
"We have always said the conflict can only be resolved in the region. Pakistan is a part of this region," she told reporters in Berlin. "Naturally we are very troubled that this refusal came today and we will definitely see if it can be revised," she added.
The United States, whose relationship with Islamabad has been further strained by the attack, also said it hoped Pakistan would reconsider.
"We certainly urge Pakistan to participate in this conference," said White House spokesman Jay Carney. "It's very important to the future of Afghanistan. Pakistan will play an important role in the future of Afghanistan and we urge them to participate in the conference."
NATO helicopters attacked two Pakistani army positions near the border with Afghanistan on Saturday, killing 24 troops and wounding more than a dozen and further straining Pakistan's relations with Washington. Angry Pakistanis held protests denouncing the United States and NATO after the attack.
It was not clear what prompted the attack. However, it is not uncommon for insurgents such as the Taliban to launch attacks on NATO forces in Afghanistan and then retreat over Pakistan's poorly demarcated border.
The Pakistani government said in its statement that the attack threatened regional peace and security. It also backed a previous decision to shut all supply lines to NATO troops through Pakistan and to ask the United States to clear its air base in the southwest of the country.
Gilani told ministers at the meeting that he would not compromise on Pakistan's sovereignty and territorial integrity, regardless of the consequences.