From The Washington Post:
February 17, 2012
At Iran-Afghanistan-Pakistan summit, a show of unity
AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images - Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai, Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari and Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad put on a display of unity Friday at a trilateral summit in Islamabad
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — At one end of the flower-festooned table sat the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, perhaps the world’s most relentless America basher.
At the other end sat Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan’s leader, who owes his nation’s survival to the United States.
And in the middle was Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, whose country’s complex relationship with Washington swings from pole to pole.
If there existed any conflict among the chief executives of the three neighboring Islamic nations, they certainly weren’t showing it Friday at the close of a trilateral summit in Pakistan’s capital. At a news conference Zardari hosted in his splendid official residence, the theme was fraternal unity as the trio pledged to work for peace and prosperity in a region raging with war and terrorism.
“When brothers [clasp] their hands together, certainly the hands of God will assist them,” Ahmadinejad said at the post-summit news conference that he dominated with windy disquisitions against “outside powers,” the United States presumably among them.
“There are countries that are determined to dominate our region ... with their hegemony,” he said. “All problems are coming from the outside.”
His government is under severe sanctions and threat of attack from Israel for its nuclear program, but Ahmadinejad played down the importance of a nation’s having the Bomb. That, he said, “is not going to bring about superiority.”
Evidently referring to nuclear-armed Pakistan, he added, “The foundation of our political relationship is humanitarian and is based on common cultural values.”
The only public evidence of friction at the summit arose over the long-alleged ties between Islamist militants and Pakistan’s military and intelligence service. Afghan officials have pointed to Pakistan as an impediment to a negotiated peace with the Taliban because the country harbors insurgents who are at war with Karzai’s government. Separate bilateral talks between Karzai and Zardari were meant to smooth tensions, but no declarations of progress emerged.
Karzai’s comments at the news conference reflected the sense that cloudy goals and overall uncertainty have dogged the nascent peace talks.
“What we need now is to formulate a policy that is actionable and implementable, and actually act upon it,” Karzai said.
Surrounded by reporters after the presidents spoke, Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said it would be “unrealistic” and “preposterous” for Afghanistan to expect that her nation could somehow arrange for Taliban leader Mohammad Omar to join the peace negotiations.
Minutes earlier, the moderator of the news conference had cut off questions after one reporter tried to inquire about the Taliban. But in the back of the conference hall, the cameramen were not satisfied. “Shake hands, shake hands,” some shouted at the presidents.
And, quite dutifully, the leaders of the embattled nations of Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan did just that.