President Asif Ali Zardari and his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in Tajikistan on Saturday for regional security talks with Afghan leader Hamid Karzai.
President Zardari, who was accompanied by Interior Minister Rehman Malik and Senator Abbas Afridi, was received at Dushanbe airport by Prime Minister of Tajikistan Okil Okilov.
The leaders are due to sit down with their Tajik host Emomali Rahmon today (Sunday), while a top US official is also due to meet diplomats from Pakistan and Afghanistan to discuss the outcome of Karzai’s February visit to Islamabad.
Neither Ahmadinejad nor Zardari spoke to reporters as they headed into separate meetings with the Tajik president.
Presidents Zardari and Okilov are expected to discuss ways and means to further enhance bilateral, political, economic, defense and security relations. They will also reflect on the development of rail and road infrastructure and air connectivity between the two countries.
The weekend events are officially being staged in celebration of the Iranian New Year holiday Navroze.
The US embassy in Dushanbe, however, said that Washington’s point-man on Afghanistan and Pakistan would be using the occasion to meet with Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Jawed Ludin and Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani on Sunday.
US representative Marc Grossman will discuss efforts “to promote a credible Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process for reconciliation and durable peace in Afghanistan,” the US embassy said in a statement.
On his return from Islamabad last month, Karzai invited the Taliban leadership to direct talks with his government, while urging Pakistan to help negotiate efforts toward ending 10 years of war.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 25th, 2012.