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Afghan, Pakistani Leaders Discuss Security In Ankara

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, Turkish President Abdullah Gul (left to right) in Ankara

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, Turkish President Abdullah Gul (left to right) in Ankara

(RFE/RL) -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari have met in Turkey to discuss closer cooperation in fighting militants along their 1,500-kilometer common border.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul chaired the trilateral meeting -- which is the third round of talks in Turkey between Kabul and Islamabad since 2007. Diplomats say the meeting also was attended by foreign ministers, army chiefs, and intelligence chiefs from all three countries -- including the chief of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency.

A statement from the Turkish president's office said the talks included an exchange of ideas on "regional security, Afghanistan-Pakistan relations, and common projects" that contribute to the stability, security, and welfare of the region.

The Ankara talks come a day after officials from more than 70 countries met in The Hague, Netherlands, to reinvigorate international efforts on stabilizing the Afghan-Pakistani border regions.

The Turkish-sponsored talks also follow an announcement last week by U.S. President Barack Obama of a new regional strategy on Afghanistan and Pakistan. That strategy calls for greater cooperation between the two countries to root out militants from Pakistan's tribal areas near the border.

Karzai spoke to delegates at The Hague conference about the importance of the trilateral meeting as part of the new strategy.

"I welcome the growing recognition that without true cooperation from Afghanistan's neighbors, victory over terrorism cannot be assured," Karzai said. "The close partnership we have developed with the democratically elected government of Pakistan has become a valuable asset to the regional approach to fighting terrorism.

Karzai also praised Turkey's "valuable role" in "furthering confidence and cooperation" between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

No 'Toleration Of Sanctuaries'

In the past, both Karzai's government and the United States have said that much of the militant violence in Afghanistan is being planned on Pakistan's side of the border.

Afghan officials also have alleged that elements of Pakistan's ISI have links to militant extremists in Pakistan and have used that nexus to try to achieve Pakistan's geopolitical goals in the region. Karzai hinted at those allegations again in his remarks at The Hague conference.

"As well as fighting any terrorist present on the Afghan side decisively, we must no longer tolerate any sanctuaries, networks, and support bases," Karzai said. "We must isolate, reform, or remove those entities that may be using extremism to advance any geopolitical goal, and [we must] suffocate the arteries through which terrorism is sustained."

Pakistan rejects those accusations, saying more than 1,500 of its troops have been killed at the hands of Islamist extremists since 2002. Zardari has welcomed the Obama administration's new strategy on Afghanistan and Pakistan, saying Pakistan will continue to fight terrorism for its own sake.

Turkey shares the view of the United States and other Western powers that peace in Afghanistan hinges on combining the battle against extremists with reconstruction and development efforts.

The trilateral talks in Turkey come after the United States and Iran found common cause on March 31 in battling the Afghan drug trade and rebuilding Afghanistan.

Tehran, however, warned the United States that plans to deploy an additional 21,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan will not bring security.

compiled from news agency reports. With additional reporting by Golnaz Esfandiari in The Hague