Merkel and Karzai: No backing down on course

19th March 2007, Comments 0 comments

19 March 2007, Berlin (dpa) - Pakistan's relationship with Afghanistan was a central focus of talks in Berlin Monday between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

19 March 2007

Berlin (dpa) - Pakistan's relationship with Afghanistan was a central focus of talks in Berlin Monday between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

'We touched on the issue of cooperation with Pakistan, because this relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan is of crucial importance for the future of Afghanistan,' Merkel said.

She highlighted 'the extent to which there is a commitment by Pakistan for a peaceful future.'

The German government spoke 'very much the same language' to the governments of both Pakistan and Afghanistan, she said.

Karzai noted the precarious security situation in the south of the country, where the NATO-led International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) is engaged in combat operations against the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

'Afghanistan still struggles in the fight against terrorism. In the provinces of Afghanistan close to the border with Pakistan we still have attacks on our people, on our schools on the international community's forces for reconstruction,' he said.

Karzai expressed gratitude for the imminent deployment of six German reconnaissance Tornados to the south of the country, after the German parliament approved the mission earlier this month.

Asked whether there had been any discussion on expanding the German military mission, the Afghan president said: 'The expansion of the German role is a German decision.

'The Afghan people will welcome any decision the people of Germany make with regard to their participation in Afghan reconstruction and security,' Karzai added.

The 3,000 German troops in Afghanistan are deployed in the relatively peaceful north of the country, and their mission is restricted to reconstruction work.

Germany has refused repeated requests from its NATO allies to extend the deployment to assist combat operations against the Taliban being conducted in the southern provinces by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

Karzai said considerable progress had been made in rebuilding Afghanistan, but added the process would take 'many, many years.'

'The journey that we began five years ago with the help of the international community...has no doubt given Afghanistan remarkable opportunities of achievement in institution building as a democratic country,' he said.

He noted an improvement in women's rights and a large increase in the number of children attending school and said there had been considerable improvements in the quality of life.

Merkel said that were there was 'a good mix' of security and reconstruction, drug production was contained more effectively.

She stressed the need to improve the electricity supply.

'We also touched on the more thorny issues. What remains true for me is that there needs to be a combination of the military pillar, rebuilding and training of security personnel.

'The right mix needs to be achieved here,' the German chancellor said.

Referring to separate abductions in Afghanistan and Iraq, the two stressed they would not submit to blackmail.

Merkel said Berlin was working to secure the release of a German woman and her son being held hostage in Iraq, with the kidnappers demanding German withdrawal from Afghanistan as a condition for their freedom.

'We must not allow ourselves to be blackmailed by terrorists,' Merkel said. 'That is a bitter truth.'

Karzai added: 'We should not give in to blackmail and terror. If we do there will be no end to it.'

Referring to reports regarding the release of Italian journalist Daniele Mastrogiacomo, who was kidnapped in southern Afghanistan two weeks ago, Karzai said he expected him to be freed during the course of Monday.


Subject: German news

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