″We need a diplomatic surge″ | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 22.07.2010
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"We need a diplomatic surge"

German parliamentarian Elke Hoff of the Free Democrats, the junior partners in the Berlin government, has called for a regional conference involving Afghanistan's neighbors to pave the way to a diplomatic solution.

German parliamentarian Elke Hoff of the liberal Free Democratic Party is a security expert

German parliamentarian Elke Hoff of the liberal Free Democratic Party is a security expert

DW: You have called for a security conference for Afghanistan which should be on the lines of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) during the Cold War period. Can you elaborate on the concept you are looking at?

Elke Hoff: Since I am a frequent visitor to the region and I have followed the development of security and - unfortunately - instability in the region for a few years, I personally came to the conclusion that we need some kind of 'diplomatic surge'. And that this kind of initiative should of course include all the neighboring countries of Afghanistan, because they have a great influence in the country. I think without including the neighbors, we cannot achieve endurable stability in the region. Therefore, just as an example, I think a similar process to what we had in Europe with the CSCE could contribute to a more stable region and could bring all the partners to the negotiating table.

Which countries should take part in this conference?

Of course Pakistan, India, China, Russia, Iran. And Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, so all the neighboring countries who have an interest in a stable and prosperous Afghanistan. And of course the European Union and the United States. But mainly the neighbors around Afghanistan.

You have said that the role of Pakistan and Iran in the context of Afghanistan has been misunderstood. How?

There are many Afghan refugees in neighboring Iran

There are many Afghan refugees in neighboring Iran

I think that concerning Iran, for example, other political problems, which of course exist and have to be solved, like the nuclear issue, have overshadowed some common interests like ending drug trafficking. This has a huge impact also on the Iranian society. And Pakistan, of course, also has its own security interests, which should be taken seriously. We, the Western European countries or the United States, are going to leave one day. But the neighbors will still be there in the region, so we must figure out more the common interests that we have in a stable Afghanistan.

How can such a plan work when we know that the Americans would probably not accept Iran on board and Pakistan might not accept India's influence?

We have to discuss these issues with our friends and we have to convince them because this is a long-term strategy. When I look back there was great reluctance considering the process in Europe especially from the US side, because there were so many tensions with the former Soviet Union. But I think that for the peace and prosperity of the whole region, we have to come to a diplomatic and political solution, which is of course always the end of any military conflict - and so we have to try and convince our partners!

Afghanistan and Pakistan signed a trade agreement earlier this month

Afghanistan and Pakistan signed a trade agreement earlier this month

What should be the role of Afghanistan's neighbors in your opinion?

To initiate such a process means, first of all, to define and figure out the core issues which have to be tackled in the region, which have to be put on the negotiating table: How to achieve a stable Afghanistan? How can we enable Afghanistan to look after its own security? What kind of contributions can come from the neighbors? How can we manage the drug problem, the drug trafficking? How can we manage, of course, human rights? This was also a point in the process in Europe which, first of all, had been treated very suspiciously, but finally it became one of the key issues in the discussions with the former Soviet bloc. So I think that to initiate a process where we talk about common interests instead of things which divide us could build more trust and confidence. And I think one of the main obstacles in the region is a huge lack of confidence and trust.

Interview: Disha Uppal
Editor: Grahame Lucas

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