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Afghan, Pakistani presidents meet in Turkey

world Updated: Apr 01, 2009 14:57 IST

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The presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan met at Turkish-sponsored talks in Ankara on Wednesday to discuss cooperation against Islamist extremists.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul hosted the meeting between Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan and Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan, the third round of fence-mending talks between the two troubled neighbours in Turkey since 2007.

Defence and intelligence officials from the two countries were also to attend the meeting, according to Turkish officials.

Drawing on its traditionally close ties with both Afghanistan and Pakistan, Turkey, the sole mainly Muslim member of NATO, is seeking to mediate between the two countries to improve their often tense bilateral relations.

Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have recently improved, but the dialogue should be "cemented" and Turkey wishes to contribute to the process, a Turkish diplomat said ahead of the meeting.

Karzai had difficult ties with Zardari's predecessor Pervez Musharraf, with the two parties accusing each other over the insecurity plaguing their border.

Pakistan's northwestern tribal regions became a stronghold for extremists who fled Afghanistan after the US-led invasion toppled the hardline Taliban regime in late 2001.

Afghanistan says much of its insurgent violence, including attacks on US and NATO soldiers, is planned in Pakistan. It has often accused its neighbour of not doing enough to curb the militants.

Pakistan rejects the accusation and says more than 1,500 Pakistani troops have been killed at the hands of Islamist extremists since 2002.

Earlier on Wednesday, a suspected US drone fired two missiles into an alleged Taliban and Al-Qaeda training centre in northwest Pakistan, killing up to 12 militants, security officials said.

Last week, US President Barack Obama unveiled a new Afghan war plan in which he vowed to defeat Al-Qaeda and put Pakistan at the centre of the war against Osama bin Laden's network.

The plan involves dispatching 4,000 more troops to Afghanistan, in addition to an extra 17,000 already committed and tripling US aid to Pakistan.

The first fence-mending talks sponsored by Turkey took place in Ankara in April 2007, followed by second in Istanbul in December. Both meetings ended with pledges to step up cooperation against extremists.