Kabul to host regional conference for confidence building

Kabul to host regional conference for confidence building

Afghanistan is set to host a regional conference on security and confidence-building engagement with its neighbouring countries later this month, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said Sunday, DPA reported.

The conference, scheduled for June 14 in the Afghan capital Kabul, will see ministers and senior government officials from 15 different countries, including Pakistan, Iran, Turkey and the Central Asian nations, the official said.

The meeting, called the "Heart of Asia" Kabul Conference for Regional Cooperation, is a follow-up to the Istanbul Process - a foreign ministers' level conference in Turkey in November which came up with a collective non-binding vision for regional security, reconstruction and cooperation in the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking.

"Fifteen countries came together to agree on a set of very concrete confidence-building measures with Afghanistan at the centre and now they have decided to follow up the decisions made at the Istanbul conference," Janan Mosazai told dpa.

The conference line-up consists of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Pakistan, India, China and Russia. Fifteen other countries, including the US, Britain, Germany and Japan will participate in the conference as supporting nations.

"We believe that this region has tremendous potential in the areas of politics, economy, security, culture as well as people-to-people relationship," Mosazai said.

"Afghanistan is fully committed to improve, strengthen and advance confidence and cooperation in this region because it is not only in the interest of peace, stability and prosperity of Afghanistan but also the entire region."

Following the Kabul conference will come the Tokyo conference in July, at which donor countries will gather to agree on their civilian aid commitments beyond 2014 - the year the NATO-led military alliance will stop combat operations.

The Istanbul process was envisioned to establish a new regional mechanism for the Afghan neighbours to play a greater role in the ending of the Afghan insurgency. It also hoped to increase economic ties and promote regional cooperation on trade and development initiatives.

While Kabul has stressed the need for regional support towards economic and security gains, the November conference in Turkey saw no substantial pledge from the participants aside from a broad commitment for regional security dialogue and confidence-building measures.

A decade on, the Taliban movement is still a strong force in Afghanistan as they continue deadly attacks against the Afghan government and the NATO-led international forces.

The military alliance and Kabul administration have accused Pakistan of not doing enough against the Taliban "safe havens" in Pakistani tribal areas along the Afghan border - charges that Islamabad rejects.

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