Reconciliation with Taliban on agenda

Syria, Afghanistan, fears over a resurgence of Islamic terrorism and tensions in the Korean peninsula were some of the items on an over-crowded agenda as Foreign Ministers of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) met in Brussels on Tuesday. Afghanistan and Pakistan are subjects that will receive particular attention and a special meeting among U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Pakistan Army Chief General Kayani and other Pak officials is scheduled for Wednesday.

This was Mr. Kerry’s first NATO meeting since he was appointed the Secretary of State. Russia, one of the main backers of Syrian President Assad was prominently present on the sidelines of the meeting with talks between Mr. Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Mr. Kerry said he would host a meeting of Afghan and Pakistani officials to discuss reconciliation with the Taliban and other issues. He said Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his Defence Minister Bishmullah Mohammadi , along with General Kayani and Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, will attend Wednesday’s meeting.

“I will be meeting with President Karzai and General Kayani and the civilian Foreign Minister from Pakistan while I am here,” Mr. Kerry told the press.

The goal, he said, was to take the peace process forward “in the simplest, most cooperative, cogent way so that we wind up with both Pakistan’s and Afghanistan’s interests being satisfied but most importantly with a peaceful and stable Afghanistan, which is worth the expenditure and the treasure and effort of these last years.”

Though Mr. Karzai is systematically critical of Pakistan, he also admits no lasting peace is possible without Islamabad playing a role because of its deep ties to the Taliban. Mr Karzai has had to swallow many a bitter pill including the assassination of his hand picked negotiator. With a constant exchange of barbs and jibes, it is unlikely that Wednesday’s meeting will bring forth any new proposals.

Meanwhile, the discussions between Mr. Kerry and Mr. Lavrov were closely watched. Terrorism was very high on the agenda as news about the bombing of the French embassy in Lybia shared the headlines with a foiled terrorist attack by two Tunisians in Canada.

As concerns Syria, despite the worsening situation — an estimated 6 million of the country’s 22 million are either displaced or refugees, there is unlikely to be any agreement or forward movement on the issue, observers said.

“We can all see that the situation in Syria is getting worse. And we cannot ignore the risks of a regional spillover, with possible implications for allied security,” NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said.

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