LONDON: President Asif Ali Zardari reached London on Saturday to attend the third trilateral summit between Pakistan, Afghanistan and Britain, to discuss regional peace and security issues.
The trilateral session – the third since summer last year, after meetings in Kabul in July and in New York in September – is scheduled to commence Sunday, Feb 3, and expected to continue on the following day.
Being hosted by British Prime Minister David Cameron, the summit on Afghanistan and regional peace will also be attended by Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
During the talks, the leaders of Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United Kingdom will discuss the regional situation, exchange views on the strategic partnership, and evolve a joint strategy for reconciliation in Afghanistan to ensure peace and stability in the region.
The summit will also discuss the post-2014 situation following withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.
On Sunday, British Cameron will dine with President Zardari and Afghan President Karzai at his country retreat Chequers in Buckinghamshire, southeast England, on Sunday.
The British premier will then hold the first in-depth top-level talks with both leaders and their key officials on Monday.
“The Prime Minister will host the leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan at Chequers on Sunday and Monday as part of his ongoing efforts to help to strengthen Afghanistan-Pakistan relations, support an Afghan peace and reconciliation process and promote regional peace and stability,” a Downing Street spokesperson said.
“For the first time, we will bring together the political and security establishments from both Afghanistan and Pakistan, with foreign ministers, chiefs of army staff, chiefs of intelligence and the chair of the Afghan High Peace Council attending the meeting.
“Discussions are expected to focus on the Afghan-led peace process and how the Pakistanis and international community can support it. We also expect the Afghans and Pakistanis to make further progress on the Strategic Partnership Agreement they committed to in September.”
The first of this series of trilateral meetings between Pakistan, Afghanistan and United Kingdom were held in August last, and followed by another summit in September when President Asif Ali Zardari, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and British Prime Minister David Cameron met in the United Nations headquarters in New York on the sidelines of the UN annual meeting in September last year.
Back in December, Cameron had announced Britain would withdraw 3,800 of the country’s 9,000 troops from Afghanistan in 2013, as Nato prepares for a full security handover to Afghan forces at the end of next year.
“This trilateral process sends a very clear message to the Taliban: now is the time for everyone to participate in a peaceful political process in Afghanistan,” the spokesperson for the British PM added.
“As the Prime Minister has set out previously, a stable Afghanistan is not just in the interests of Afghans, but also in the interests of their neighbours and the UK.
“We share the same vision for Afghanistan: a secure, stable and democratic country that never again becomes a haven for international terror.
“We are working together to achieve it and Afghanistan’s neighbours have a vital role to play. It is vital not just for the future security of their citizens, but for their prosperity too.”