|Nato supply only route to Chicago moot|
12 May 2012
BRUSSELS - NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen suggested on Friday that Pakistan could miss out on important talks on the future of Afghanistan if it fails to reopen supply routes in time to secure a place at a NATO summit in Chicago on May 20-21.
Speaking at a news conference, Rasmussen made no explicit reference to excluding Pakistan - which closed transit routes to Afghanistan after 24 of its soldiers were killed in a NATO cross-border air attack last November.
But he noted that other countries providing supply routes to NATO had been invited to the summit, which will map out a future for Afghanistan after most foreign combat troops are withdrawn at the end of 2014.
"As I mentioned we have actually invited a number of countries from the region, neighbours of Afghanistan, Central Asian countries, Russia, because they provide important transit arrangements to the benefit of our operation," he said in response to a question. "But as you also know our transit routes through Pakistan are currently blocked so we have to continue our dialogue with Pakistan with a view to finding a solution to that because that's really a matter of concern."
Pakistan has demanded a formal apology from the United States for the cross-border attack before it reopens the supply routes, and has also called for an end to US drone strikes on its tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. With neither of those demands likely to be met, the government faces the choice of making an embarrassing climbdown - politically tricky at time anti-Americanism is running high in Pakistan - or continuing to hold out. Pakistan boycotted an international conference on Afghanistan in Bonn in December in protest against the NATO air strikes. Agencies add: The 20-21 May summit will be the biggest meeting Nato has ever organised, with around 60 countries and organisations represented, the Secretary General said, adding that preparations for the meeting were on track.
"We will complete our Isaf mission by the end of 2014, but we will remain committed to a long-term partnership with the Afghan people," Rasmussen said.
The Nato secretary general said that at Chicago, allies will strengthen their network of partnerships around the world.
Nato will hold an expanded Isaf meeting, including 22 non-Nato partners and a separate meeting with a group of 13 partner nations to recognise their important contributions to current and recent NATO missions in Afghanistan, Kosovo and Libya.
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