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Cooperation Between the UK and Pakistan


Cooperation Between the UK and Pakistan

Edited Transcript of a joint press conference between British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw and Pakistani Foreign Minister, Abdul Sattar, in Islamabad, Friday 23 November 2001. Source: FCO, London.

Foreign Secretary: It is a real delight to be back here in Islamabad and, as Minister Sattar has said, to have the fourth meeting with him in six weeks. I have had two good meetings this morning. The first, a lengthy meeting with President Musharraf and then a meeting with Minister Sattar. The agenda covered similar subjects in both meetings. First of all, obviously, the situation in Afghanistan; the current military situation, concern about the humanitarian factors in Kunduz and Kandahar, and we discussed what is a very difficult and potentially very serious situation there. Then the meeting which is due in Bonn under the auspices of Lakhdar Brahimi and I had a discussion yesterday with his deputy, Francesc Vendrell, about the possible outcomes of that meeting and we are all agreed, and it is a point that your President makes very strongly, Minister, as you know, that it is extremely important that as quickly as possible there is a broad-based multi-ethnic civil administration introduced into Afghanistan as a precursor to a more permanent government, and that the quicker that is established, the better it will be for the short term and therefore the medium term stability of that country.

We also talked about bilateral relations between Pakistan and Iran, which was also the subject of our discussion yesterday in Tehran, as well as issues about the economic development of Pakistan, a donors meeting that was held two days ago, and the United Kingdom’s aid commitment to this country. Thanks to the work of my colleague, Clare Short, the Secretary of State for International Development, there was before 11 September, but there is now to a greater degree, a very substantial investment by the British Department for International Development in this country and, unusually amongst ailing countries, we have set a three-year time scale for this so that we can get involved in Pakistan, as in other countries, over the medium term, as well as over the short term.

And then we discussed overall strategic issues concerning security and stability in South Asia itself.

Question: There is great danger of human tragedy in Kunduz. What actual steps will your country take to save those human beings in Kunduz?

Foreign Secretary: It is a very serious situation. It is also one where information is limited, but our position is very straightforward and that is that if people are ready to surrender, and they are serious in that intention, they have given up their arms, and if it is possible to accept their surrender, then their surrender should be accepted. And we all understand the potential humanitarian disaster that could be possible in Kunduz. Making those arrangements in the particular and very confused circumstances could prove extremely difficult. It also has to be said that if people have been fighting for the Taliban, as is the case for any other combatants in a similar conflict, then they stand to be detained, if they are surrendered. They cannot expect to go free. We are very concerned about this situation. It is a matter that President Musharraf raised with me. And we shall be doing our best, but we don’t have forces in the area and also we are not entirely clear whether those who are on the Taliban side have decided not to continue to fight.

Question: What part of your talks in Tehran and Islamabad involved discussions about the Northern Alliance’s role in a future government of Afghanistan?

Foreign Secretary: Well, when I was in Tehran yesterday I had a lengthy meeting with Dr Abdullah Abdullah, the foreign affairs representative of the Northern Alliance. I thanked him for the position which the Northern Alliance has publicly taken in respect of the formation of a broad-based multi-ethnic government because there were anxieties that the Northern Alliance might have decided to take a more partisan approach to any future administration, themselves having taken Kabul. They are themselves sending representatives to the meeting in Bonn under somebody who is fairly senior in the Northern Alliance, and we hope, given what they have already said, and expect, the Northern Alliance to continue to show a high degree of responsibility for securing a peaceful future in Afghanistan, and that can only come about if there is give and take and if there is acceptance that no one party, or no one ethnic group should have complete control of any government or administration.

Question: What your thoughts about what the Pashtun representation is likely to be in Bonn on Monday.

Mr Sattar: We are supporting Mr Brahimi in his own efforts to select a representative group. We are confident that with his knowledge and background he will make all efforts. But it is very difficult at this time. New forces are rising in different parts of the country, and we only hope and pray that the choice that he makes will actually lead to the formation of a broad-based transitional administration, and maybe there will be time for revision of the list of people, and for addition to that list, in order to ensure that the transitional administration is fully representative of the Afghans. This is very important for the sake of peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Question: Could you set out whether you still believe that in a broad-based government there should be moderate members of the Taliban represented?

Mr Sattar: Unfortunately the word moderate has been misunderstood. I would like to clarify that any Afghan who is prepared to support implementation of Security Council Resolutions of 1999, December 2000 and September 12 and October 14 of this year should be considered eligible for consultation in the formation of a broad-based government. Of course those people who are to be brought to prosecution for their part in terrorism, they are in a different class. And these are the ones we consider to be extremists. Secondly, I want to remind you that many of the Generals in the Northern Alliance were once allied with the Soviets during their intervention in Afghanistan, so they have been forgiven for that and I think others who might have been allied with one side or the other should not be excluded for that reason alone.

Question: The Northern Alliance has objected to the presence of British troops in Afghanistan. Did this issue come up in your meeting with Dr Abdullah Abdullah, and what is his position now?

Foreign Secretary: Well, they are not objecting to the positioning of British troops in Afghanistan. The question did come up, indeed, and it was the subject of comment by both of us when we gave a joint press conference in Tehran yesterday. The Northern Alliance have actually welcomed the use of coalition military force to help eliminate the Taliban and the Al Qa’ida organisation and have been working closely in that respect. So far as coalition forces for other purposes, for example to secure airfields, for protection of humanitarian workers and for general stabilisation is concerned, their position, it was made clear by Dr Abdullah Abdullah, is that they have no objection in principle, but they do wish to be consulted about any such forces, and that is a position that we accept.

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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).