US asks Pakistan to reconsider Afghan talks boycott

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Washington, Nov 29: The US on Wednesday asked Pakistan to reconsider its decision to boycott a conference on Afghanistan in Bonn next week, saying it is Islamabad's interest to attend this conference.

Pakistan said it will boycott the upcoming crucial Bonn Conference on Afghanistan in Germany to protest a deadly cross-border NATO air raid, described by the Army as a "deliberate act of aggression".

"It is important to note that this conference is about Afghanistan, about its future, about building a safer, more prosperous Afghanistan within the region. So it's very much in Pakistan's interest to attend this conference," State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters at a news briefing. "Seeing this on a continuum, Pakistan was obviously in Istanbul and pledged support for a strong, prosperous Afghanistan within the region.

It was a very important statement, and, again, now we're moving towards Bonn. This is an important opportunity," he noted. It's also worth noting that there's still going to be 85 nations and 15 international organisations that are going to be in Bonn.

"So while we would like to have Pakistan there, we still think it'll be a valuable opportunity to talk about Afghanistan's future," Toner said, but refrained to use the word "regret" or "disappointed" on Pakistan's decision, which the State Department spokesman normally reserves for. "I think I said it as plainly as I can. You know, it's in their interest, so we think, you know, it's important that they be there," Toner said when asked if he regrets the Pakistani decision not to come to Bonn.

He said the US is conducting an investigation that will look in to the matter. "In every conversation we've had and continue to have with the Pakistani government, while expressing our deep condolences about the incident, we're also pledging to continue to work together,' the US official said.

Toner, however, noted that there is no change in US strategy towards Afghanistan in view of the recent decisions taken by Pakistan following the weekend’s incident on the Af-Pak border in which some 24 Pak soldiers were killed in a cross-border fire by NATO.

"We have had a significant incident that took place, but this has not disrupted our overall strategy vis-a-vis Afghanistan, vis-a-vis Pakistan. We're still committed to working with both countries to build a more stable and secure future for both countries," he said.

"Our approach to Afghanistan remains on track. We are still planning on the Bonn conference. It's not going to be delayed or postponed. We still have, as I mentioned, some 85 nations and some 15 international organisations who will attend. We think it's important to go forward with our plans, long-term plan for Afghanistan," he said.


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