Norway to host talks on Afghanistan

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Top diplomats from all of Afghanistan’s neighbouring countries plus several others, including the US, will meet for talks at a hotel in Oslo Friday morning. The Norwegian government has quietly gathered all the parties to promote regional cooperation.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr has made several trips to Afghanistan, and also been a target of a terrorist attack in its capital of Kabul. Now he hopes to get Afghanistan's neighbours to cooperate on peace prospects for the country. PHOTO: Utenriksdepartementett

The talks, revealed by newspaper Bergens Tidende on Thursday, come 10 years after Norway first sent troops to Afghanistan and since has had Norwegian officials involved in key roles aimed at stabilizing the war-torn country. Today, Afghanistan remains deeply troubled and dangerous despite some signs of progress.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre and his staff have thus invited representatives from India, Iran, Pakistan, the US and several other countries to discuss forms of regional cooperation that could help ease the ongoing troubles. Representatives from countries that are permanent members of the UN Security Council, including France, China, Russia and Great Britain, have also been invited.

The meeting, reports Bergens Tidende, is the result of an intense and long-term diplomatic effort by Norwegian officials. Norway’s foreign ministry has spent the past two years trying to get Afghanistan’s neighbours to speak with one another, and there have been several smaller meetings between parties involved, held in Oslo, Dubai and Istanbul, where the Turkish government has taken an initiative in the process.

Støre noted that Norway is very familiar with the political situation in Kabul and has no regional interests itself in the area. That made Norway well-suited to set up and host the talks, according to Støre.

“Norway is a rather non-threatening country that has no major interests of its own,” agreed Ståle Ulrichsen of the Oslo-based foreign policy institute NUPI. He told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that “it’s therefore easier for us to function as the neutral broker than, for example, the US.”

‘No illusions’
Various countries’ interests in Afghanistan have long contributed to the violence and instability in the country that’s rich in resources but plagued by power struggles and warring factions. Støre told Bergens Tidende that he has “no illusions” that Afghanistan’s neighbours will stop using the country to promote their own interests.

“But the hope is that we can, through the talks, strengthen cooperation in the region,” Støre said.

The US has claimed that the Taliban’s recent attacks on US targets have been carried out with help from Pakistani intelligence services. Iran, meanwhile, allegedly supports various armed groups in Afghanistan.

“The conflict in Afghanistan is very much linked to conflicts between its neighbours,” Ulrichsen told NRK. “Pakistan and India are highly engaged. Iran has strong interests as do the Chinese. So peace in Afghanistan without its neighbours participating in it and accepting it, is impossible.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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