Afghanistan, US to hold bilateral meeting in Washington sans Pakistan

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Washington, Feb 16(ANI): Pakistan has been excluded from the high-level Afghan-Pak-US trilateral meeting, as the United States and Afghanistan have decided to hold bilateral talks on the same scheduled dates.

"The joint Afghanistan-Pakistan-United States Trilateral Ministerial Meeting scheduled between February 23-25, 2011 in Washington D.C. is postponed in light of the political changes in Pakistan," said Abduljalil Ghafoory, spokesman for the Afghan Embassy in Washington.

"However bilateral talks between the United States of America and Afghanistan in the areas such as security and agriculture will convene within the same period to further talks of mutual concern and interests," Ghafoory added.

During the meeting, high-ranking officials of Afghanistan and the United States will "convene dialogue on advancing security and agriculture with a focus on key areas of mutual cooperation, seeking to deepen links between the countries."

The February 23-25 meeting was originally to be a trilateral affair, in which top officials were to have outlined the progress on issues like the war in Afghanistan and the campaign against extremism.

However, US Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Philip J. Crowley said in a February 12 press statement: "In light of the political changes in Pakistan and after discussions with Afghan and Pakistani officials in Washington, it was agreed to postpone the Trilateral Meeting scheduled for February 23-24."

The step was seen as an American arm-twisting of Pakistan to release murder accused US diplomat Raymond Davis, who has confessed to shooting dead two Pakistani men in Lahore, allegedly in 'self-defence'.

But Crowley maintained that "we remain committed to robust engagement between Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the United States, as we share many issues of mutual concern and benefit from being at the same table. We look forward to convening a very productive Trilateral Meeting at the earliest opportunity." (ANI)

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