“Afghanistan and Pakistan, in this tough period, will always see the support of their brother Turkey nearby, in all its sincerity,” Gül said on the sidelines of the 8th Turkey-Afghanistan-Pakistan Trilateral Summit, which kicked off in Ankara on Thursday.
Gül met with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, while foreign ministers, intelligence and high-level military officials and business leaders from the three countries met in separate sessions on Thursday.
Afghan and Pakistani leaders thanked Turkey for its support in disputes between Afghanistan and Pakistan over security and terrorism issues, saying, “We feel like we are in our homes.”
This year’s summit is taking place against a backdrop of important political and security transitions in Afghanistan, including the presidential and provincial council elections on April 5, 2014, and the withdrawal of NATO forces by 2014. The main topics of this year’s summit are security in Afghanistan after the NATO troop pullout, efforts to negotiate with the Taliban and measures to restore peace and promote reconciliation in the country and the region.
The summit’s theme is “A sustainable peace in the heart of Asia,” and host Gül touched upon political dialogue, security cooperation and partnership among the three countries, saying, “Our cooperation takes its power from friendship and brotherly ties.”
He added, “The relations between the three countries take their strength from their historic and deep-rooted amity.”
The meetings between the three countries, which started in 2007 and have since evolved into a vibrant trilateral platform based on a shared will between the countries, focus on issues such as security, economic cooperation, education, inter-parliamentary cooperation, dialogue and mutual trust. The summit aims to encourage these neighbors to cooperate in the fight against extremist groups.
Touching upon the establishment of the summit, Gül noted that from the very beginning the aim of this summit was to further enhance cooperation among the countries. “With this understanding, we have also included our ministers of foreign affairs, interior, economy and intelligence in this process. With the help of this mechanism, we have succeeded in creating a mutual understanding among our institutions,” said Gül.
Gül also noted that Pakistan has gone through a critical period in the last year due to the elections in the country, adding that the country has passed the democracy test successfully.
“We believe that Pakistan will again be successful in economic development and the fight against terrorism,” said Gül.
Karzai, who is due to step down after the presidential elections on April 5, is pushing for Pakistan to help the start of peace talks with the Taliban. He has demanded progress on these talks before Afghanistan signs a security deal with the US to allow about 10,000 troops to stay in the country after this year.
The supporters of the pact, known as the Bilateral Security Agreement, say it is crucial for Afghanistan’s stability after the draw-down of NATO forces by December 31, 2014.
“This agreement is also significant for other NATO allies,” a Turkish official said to Agence France-Presse. “It is hard for other countries to deploy troops in Afghanistan without the presence of American troops,” the official added.
Sharif: Terrorism a common problem
Since Sharif’s election last year, Pakistan has tried to build ties with Afghanistan. Sharif said during the press conference with Karzai and Gül that terrorism is a common problem and Pakistan is making efforts to improve its ties with Afghanistan.
Sharif added that Pakistan places great importance on peace and security between the two countries and has pledged to give all its support to the fight against terrorism.
Gül also noted that 2014 is an important year for Afghanistan, which will hold presidential elections in April.
“By the end of this year, [NATO-led International Security Assistance Force] ISAF will withdraw from the country. There are critical issues. We have discussed all these issues in detail. Our common will is to maintain peace and security in Afghanistan. Thereby, with the support of the international community, a period of success and at the same time a period of turmoil will be left behind,” said Gül.
Noting that it will not be possible to maintain stability in the region without maintaining peace in Afghanistan, Gül stated that both countries [Afghanistan and Pakistan] will always enjoy Turkey’s support.
“Our Afghan brothers will start taking steps towards reconciliation, unity and solidarity. It is important for Afghanistan to conclude this process with success, as this will be an indication of the persistent gains obtained in the past 13 years. The difficulties Afghanistan will face in this process have the potential to affect the region, which is called ‘the heart of Asia.’ Without the cooperation of neighboring countries, it is impossible to maintain security and stability in Afghanistan,” Gül commented.
Those participating in the summit from the Turkish side include Gül, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, Interior Minister Efkan Ala, Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel and MİT head Hakan Fidan. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was also present, without attending the entire program.