Merkel 'very sorry' about Pakistan boycott of Afghan meet
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday she was "very sorry" about Pakistan's announced boycott of a Bonn conference next week on the future of Afghanistan and would try to convince it to attend.
Merkel said Germany would "see what could be done to change" Islamabad's decision to stay away from the meeting in the western German city, taken in protest at NATO air strikes which killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
"We are both interested in constructive development of Afghanistan," Merkel, who will open the Bonn conference, told reporters at a joint press conference with visiting King Abdullah II of Jordan.
"Which is why I consider the conference hosted by the (German) foreign minister to be very important. We always said that conflicts can only be resolved in the region and Pakistan is part of this region which is why we are very sorry that this cancellation came today."
Merkel said that Berlin had not given up on convincing Islamabad to attend the Bonn meeting, which will bring together foreign ministers from around 100 countries to discuss commitments to the war-ravaged country after the withdrawal of NATO troops in 2014.
Among the invited guests is US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
"I understand Pakistan's concern about the loss of human life due to NATO troops but this should not distract from the fact that this Afghanistan conference is a very, very important conference," she said.
"There was a loya jirga (grand assembly) in Afghanistan and there is now a very, very good chance for a possible political process. On the one hand I can understand (the boycott) but on the other, we will see what still can be done."
Abdullah said Jordan supported all efforts to reach a political solution to the bloody strife in Afghanistan.
"Like Germany, Jordan has its commitments in Afghanistan but again the political process is what takes precedence now," he said.
"We have a very strong relationship with Pakistan but we do hope that that situation will improve."
A Pakistani official told AFP earlier that Islamabad would boycott Monday's conference in Bonn over the deadly NATO air strikes at the weekend.
US-led investigators have been given until December 23 to probe the attacks, threatening to prolong significantly Pakistan's blockade on NATO supplies into Afghanistan implemented in retaliation for the killings.
Islamabad has vowed no more "business as usual" with Washington in the wake of the strikes. In addition to shutting its Afghan border, it ordered Americans to vacate an air base reportedly used by CIA drones and a review of the alliance.
© 2011 AFP