EU seeks Pakistan’s help against Islamist insurgentsJune 16th, 2009 - 6:21 pm ICT by IANS
Brussels, June 16 (DPA) The European Union (EU) wants to involve Pakistan in its efforts to fight insurgents in Afghanistan, EU officials said ahead of the first ever EU-Pakistan summit here Wednesday.
“We want to show Pakistan that we haven’t forgotten them - and the fact that they’re next door to Afghanistan,” an EU diplomat told DPA Tuesday.
Pakistan is currently fighting an increasingly bitter war against Taliban-linked militants in the mountainous northwest part of the country. Just over the border, in Afghanistan, European soldiers are fighting the same militants under the banner of NATO.
According to a draft of the summit statement seen by DPA, security is set to be the summit’s dominant theme.
“Violent extremism represents the greatest threat to the security and integrity of Pakistan,” while international aid in the fight against the insurgency is of “critical importance”, it says.
In particular, the EU is expected to offer more aid to help the hundreds of thousands of civilians who have fled the fighting in the north, and to offer more support to the Pakistani police.
The two sides are set to call for confidence-boosting measures with India as a first step towards reducing tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbours.
Trade is also set to feature high on the agenda, with the draft summit declaration calling for an improvement of trade links between Pakistan and its neighbours.
The text also holds out the hope of a free-trade agreement between the EU and Pakistan, although this would be “in the longer term”.
It says the EU “will explore” ways of updating its system of preferential tariffs when this is reviewed in 2012, “thereby allowing new beneficiaries, including possibly Pakistan, to take advantage of this scheme”.
Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari is expected to attend the summit alongside representatives of the EU’s central institutions and the Czech Republic, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency.
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