April 28, 2009
KABUL ) -- The foreign ministers of Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan will meet once a month as part of efforts to fight terrorism and stabilize Afghanistan, the three countries have said.
Iran and Pakistan border Afghanistan. The United States has said it wants to increase its engagement with both countries as part of a more regional approach to tackling the growing strength of Taliban-linked militants across the south and east of Afghanistan.
But the cooperation is not guaranteed to be in line with U.S. aims.
"Our countries have come together to strengthen our relationship and cooperation. We decided that we will meet in Islamabad, Kabul, and Tehran," Afghan Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta told a news conference.
Spanta said the next meeting will be in Tehran in May but would not give a date.
Pakistan's foreign minister, Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi, said he had arrived in Kabul with a draft framework for cooperation, which the three ministers agreed on the sidelines of a meeting in Tehran and aims to look for local solutions.
"We have common problems...[and] indigenous solutions will be more likely to succeed and will be more sustainable," Qureshi said.
Pakistan was stung by criticism last week from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who said its government had abdicated to the Taliban by agreeing to Islamic law in part of the country and the nuclear-armed state was a "mortal threat" to world security.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said his country was ready to throw its considerable diplomatic weight behind stabilising Afghanistan and the wider region, but has not yet decided on cooperation with the United States.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran has mustered all its power and is willing to put it to work to find a regional joint solution and we will implement it with enthusiasm," he said. "What Iran and America are able to do together with reference to Afghanistan depends on us knowing what the latest scenario is with the U.S."
President Barack Obama's strategy review of Afghanistan, announced earlier this month, placed strong emphasis on the role of Pakistan in stopping the growth of militancy and the Taliban in areas near the border with Afghanistan.
But Islamabad is wrestling with a growing Taliban insurgency problem of its own. Qureshi defended Pakistan's decision to sign a deal with the Taliban allowing them to administer Shari'a law in the Swat Valley, and said it did not mean it would spread to other parts of the country.
The Swat agreement was made in "the spirit of democracy" but the growth of the Taliban in other parts of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas was unacceptable, Qureshi said.
Insurgents have been forced out of parts of the northwest after security forces launched an offensive to stop their advance, he added.
"The Taliban have been pushed out of Buner, they've been pushed out of Dir, of Sharla. They will have to lay down arms and if they do not then we will use force to establish political government," Qureshi said.