Mumbai Attacks Overshadow Afghan Talks in France | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 15.12.2008
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Mumbai Attacks Overshadow Afghan Talks in France

The recent terror attacks in Mumbai overshadowed at an international conference on peace and security in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, participants at the Paris talks said the outcome was positive.

ISAF soldiers on patrol in Afghanistan

International forces are battling a rising Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan

While no resolutions were expected, Afghanistan and its neighbors pledged to work closely on security issues, increase border security and combat drug smuggling, according to a joint statement issued after the meeting on Sunday, Dec. 14.

According to German diplomats, the goal of the conference was to strengthen regional ties, which are necessary to bring peace to Afghanistan.

The closed-door meeting was attended by representatives from Afghanistan's neighbors -- India, China, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan -- as well as top European Union officials, including EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

"I am very happy to say that all of us have a common position," Afghanistan's Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta said after a dinner for the participants on Sunday night.

India-Pakistan tension apparent

However, the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai were made the focus of the one-day talks. Reuters news agency reported that senior Indian and Pakistani officials had a brief, frosty exchange on the sidelines of the conference.

India has blamed the Pakistani-based group Lashkar-e-Taiba for the attacks which killed 179 people and has sent Pakistan a list of 40 people it wants handed over. Pakistan says it is still waiting for evidence from India about who was responsible.

Eight of the nine suspected Islamic militants killed during last month's attack on Mumbai in a photo released by Indian police

India and Pakistan are at odds over the Mumbai militants

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Indian junior foreign minister Anand Sharma both attended the Afghanistan conference. While Qureshi told reporters that he had a "cordial exchange" with Sharma, the Indian junior minister told Reuters, "We were together in the same meeting. That's it."

Tensions between France, Iran apparent

Iran boycotted the conference, with French media reporting that Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki decided at the last minute not to attend.

Tensions between Iran and France have been building in recent weeks after French President Nicolas Sarkozy said he would neither offer his hand nor share a table with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad because of the latter's antipathy towards Israel.

Iran responded to those comments with warnings of "serious consequences for bilateral relations."

Bush: "Difficult days ahead"

Although the United States was not represented at the conference in Paris, a day after the talks, President George W. Bush praised the progress made by the international community in Afghanistan and warned of "difficult days ahead."

President George W. Bush walks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the Presidential Palace on Dec. 15, 2008 in Kabul

President George W. Bush paid a surprise visit to the Middle East

Bush was speaking in Kabul while on a surprise farewell visit following a stop in Iraq. He met Afghan officials, including President Hamid Karzai, whose government and foreign allies are battling a rising Taliban insurgency.

Karzai spoke of his determination to "not allow the international community to leave us before we are fully on our feet, before we are strong enough to defend our country and before we are powerful enough to have a good economy."

The US government recently announced it would send an additional 20,000 troops to Afghanistan to fight Taliban militants.

Germany currently has some 3,500 troops in Afghanistan, though with US President-elect Barack Obama vowing to increase the number of troops and civilian advisers on the ground, it will likely be asked to up its commitment next year.

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