Pakistan boycotts Afghanistan conference in Bonn
Islamabad confirmed Friday that it will boycott a major international conference in Germany next week on Afghanistan's future, the German foreign ministry said, amid Pakistani ire over deadly NATO strikes.
The news came as Afghanistans President Hamid Karzai arrived in Germany three days ahead of the conference in in Bonn where key leaders will mull his country's future.
He was met at the airport, amid some fanfare, by German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle but with expectations for the conference falling.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar told Westerwelle, during phone talks earlier, that she hoped Monday's conference would be a success and stressed Pakistan's continued support for the process of regional stabilisation.
However Khar confirmed "Pakistan's decision not to participate in the international conference on Afghanistan", the German foreign ministry statement added.
Westerwelle regretted Islamabad's decision, and promised to keep Afghanistan's neighbour fully briefed on the conference.
Pakistan's decision deals a stinging blow to hopes for drawing up a roadmap for Afghanistan's future.
The meeting will bring 100 national delegations to the western German city of Bonn. However a deadly NATO bombing raid prompted Pakistan to scratch its name from the list, jeopardising already modest expectations.
A total of 24 soldiers in attacks on two Pakistani posts close to the Afghan border were killed in the NATO sorties on Saturday, prompting fury in the nuclear-armed Muslim nation, where there is little love for the alliance with Washington.
A senior Western diplomat called Pakistan's boycott a "pretty huge blow".
Commentators said the meticulously planned meeting, 10 years after Germany staged another international huddle on political transition following the fall of the radical Taliban, risked becoming a farce.
"The entire future engagement of the international community is based on the hope that the peace process between the Afghan government and the Taliban will progress, and Pakistan is the key to this process," Die Welt newspaper noted Friday.
© 2011 AFP