US asks Pak not to boycott Afghan meet over NATO strike
The United States asked Pakistan to reconsider its decision to boycott an international conference on Afghanistan in Bonn next week, saying it is in Islamabad's interest and that its participation was "very important" for the future of the war-torn country.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton while voicing regret at Pakistan's decision hoped it would reconsider and find a "follow-up way" to take part in the talks in Germany.
85 nations and 15 international organisations are due to attend the crucial international meet starting on December 5.
Addressing an aid conference in South Korea, Clinton reiterated the US position that the border killing of Pakistani soldiers was a "tragic incident" and pledged an investigation "as swiftly and thoroughly as possible."
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Image: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivers the keynote address at the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan on Wednesday
'Regrettable that Pakistan has decided not to attend the conference'
"Frankly this is regrettable that Pakistan has decided not to attend the conference in Bonn because this conference has been long in the planning," Clinton later told reporters.
"Pakistan like the United States has a profound interest in a secure, stable and increasingly democratic Afghanistan," the US' chief diplomat said.
Pakistan announced its decision on Tuesday in protest against the killing of its 24 soldiers by NATO forces in a cross-border fire on the Af-Pak border over the weekend. The incident was described by the Pakistani army as a "deliberate act of aggression".
"We certainly urge Pakistan to participate in this conference. It's very important for the future of Afghanistan," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told mediapersons in Washington, DC.
"Pakistan obviously will play an important role in the future of Afghanistan, and we urge them to participate in the conference," Carney said in response to a question.
The US state department also echoed White House's sentiments.
Image: Protesters burn an image of US President Obama printed on the US flag during a demonstration against a NATO cross-border attack in Peshawar
Photographs: Khuram Parvez/Reuters
'It's very much in Pakistan's interest to attend this conference on Afghanistan'
"It is important to note that this conference is about Afghanistan, about its future, about building a safer, more prosperous Afghanistan within the region. So it's very much in Pakistan's interest to attend this conference," state department spokesman Mark Toner told mediapersons.
Toner noted that there is no change in US strategy towards Afghanistan in view of the recent decisions taken by Pakistan following the weekend's incident.
"We have had a significant incident that took place, but this has not disrupted our overall strategy vis-a-vis Afghanistan, vis-a-vis Pakistan. We're still committed to working with both countries to build a more stable and secure future for both countries," he said.
"Our approach to Afghanistan remains on track. We are still planning on the Bonn conference. It's not going to be delayed or postponed. We still have, as I mentioned, some 85 nations and some 15 international organisations who will attend. We think it's important to go forward with our plans, long-term plan for Afghanistan," he said.
Image: A US soldier takes five with an Afghan boy during a patrol in Pul-e Alam, a town in Logar province, eastern Afghanistan
Photographs: Umit Bektas/Reuters
'US still pledges to continue working together with Pak'
Pressing for Pakistan's participation, Toner said, "...Pakistan was obviously in Istanbul and pledged support for a strong, prosperous Afghanistan within the region. It was a very important statement, and, again, now we're moving towards Bonn. This is an important opportunity."
"So while we would like to have Pakistan there, we still think it'll be a valuable opportunity to talk about Afghanistan's future," Toner said, but refrained to use the word "regret" or "disappointed" on Pakistan's decision, which the state department spokesman normally reserves for.
"I think I said it as plainly as I can. You know, it's in their interest, so we think, you know, it's important that they be there," Toner said when asked if he regrets the Pakistani decision not to come to Bonn.
He said the US is conducting an investigation that will look in to the matter.
"In every conversation we've had and continue to have with the Pakistani government, while expressing our deep condolences about the incident, we're also pledging to continue to work together," the US official said.
Image: A man rides his bicycle past tankers, carrying fuel for NATO forces, lined up along a road in Karachi, after traffic was halted at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
Photographs: Akhtar Soomro/Reuters