Turkish President Gül (C) joins hands with his Afghan and Pakistani counterparts, Karzai (R) and Zardari, during a joint press conference in Istanbul. New mechanism aiming to investigate a high profile assassination is expected to ease regional tensions. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL
Turkey has stepped up to ease tension between Afghanistan and Pakistan, whose tempers steamed after former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani was assassinated six weeks ago. Hosting the presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan yesterday for a trilateral summit to resume dialogue between the two states, the parties decided to designate a trilateral mechanism for the investigation of the Rabbani assassination.
“We have decided to establish a cooperation mechanism to clarify the Rabbani assassination,” Turkish President Abdullah Gül said yesterday at a joint press conference with his Pakistani and Afghan counterparts.
The mechanism, which will work in parallel with domestic investigators in Pakistan and Afghanistan, will include officials from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Turkey, a high-level Turkish Foreign Ministry official told the Hürriyet Daily News. The mechanism will enable Pakistan and Afghanistan to carry out dialogue through the process and present their claims with evidence. The first meeting of the mechanism had yet to be scheduled, the official said. Turkish diplomatic source said intelligence, military and police bodies will participate in the mechanism.
“The cooperation mechanism will begin work at the scene of the attack” where Rabbani was killed, according to a joint declaration released after the meetings.
Burhanuddin Rabbani’s son Selahaddin Rabbani, who is also Afghanistan Ambassador to Ankara, also participated the summit. The decision to set up a trilateral mechanism was decided during Gül’s talks with his counterparts Aghanistan’s Hamid Karzai and Pakistan’s Asif Zardari at an Ottoman palace overlooking the Bosphorus yesterday.
The meeting ahead of an international conference on Afghanistan today in Turkey was the first between the two neighbors since the assassination of Rabbani, a former Afghan leader and peace negotiator, on Sept. 20.
Afghanistan accused Pakistan of refusing to cooperate in the murder investigation, which according to Afghan authorities was planned in Pakistan and committed by a Pakistani suicide bomber. The meeting arose after 17 people died in the deadliest attack yet against the U.S.-led NATO mission in Kabul.
“I thank both presidents because of their confidence in Turkey,” Gül said, stressing the importance of the gathering after the tension flared due to recent killings.
Setting up a cooperation mechanism for investigating Rabbani’s assassination was “extremely critical for the peace process, as it has proven terrorism is affecting two countries in a negative way,” Karzai said. “We were talking to the Taliban about peace until the assassination of Rabbani.”
“Our desire for peace is misunderstood or misused. We cannot keep talking to suicide bombers,” he added, referring to Taliban forces who allegedly killed Rabbani. “Maybe this assassination was done to block the peace process in Afghanistan,” said Gül at the press conference.
The three presidents signed agreements enshrining their commitment to cooperate in the fields of education, banking system and joint military exercises. The trilateral meeting is the sixth in Turkey, resulting from a regular consultation mechanism established in 2007 to encourage the two countries to cooperate.
A committee of foreign ministers is also expected to be set up and meet more often than the trilateral summits occur, a Foreign Ministry official told the Daily News.
The trilateral summit will be followed by an international conference today in Istanbul on the theme of “Security and cooperation in the heart of Asia.” Nearly 20 countries and international organizations are expected to attend.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton changed her plans and canceled her visit to Istanbul at the last minute to stay with her ailing mother. U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman is expected to replace her.
For tomorrow’s meeting the participants have a plan to shape a mechanism for regional security cooperation. A Turkish diplomat said the negotiations were ongoing to reconcile reservations of some regional countries with a set of confidence-building measures as part of this mechanism.