NATO invites Pakistan to Chicago summit on Afghanistan
From Elise Labott
(CNN) — NATO has invited Pakistani President Asif Zardari to join the Afghanistan summit in Chicago this week, even as the Afghan neighbor continues to weigh whether to reopen its border crossings for war supplies.
Farhatullah Babar, a presidential spokesman, confirmed the invitation Tuesday, saying it was unconditional and was not linked to the opening of ground lines of communication for NATO or to any other issue. He said Zardari would consider the invitation in light of guidelines from Pakistan’s parliament and the advice of the government.
The president said that a decision about the invitation will be communicated to NATO later.
The invitation comes just days after NATO Secretary General Fogh Rasmussen suggested that the neighbor of Afghanistan would not be included because of the continued closure of Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan to war supplies.
“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,” Rasmussen said on Friday at a news conference.
A senior official with the Obama administration stressed this was a NATO invitation and it was not clear if President Obama would meet with Zardari.
“It doesn’t necessarily impact what we do with the Pakistanis” at the summit, the official said.
Pakistan was invited as a neighboring country of Afghanistan, as have other countries from the region.
Talks to reopen the border have intensified ahead of the Chicago meetings but have not been resolved. U.S. negotiators have been in Pakistan since late April, and just this past weekend, Gen. John Allen, who oversees all U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, and his Afghan counterpart were in Pakistan for discussions that included talks about the border situation.
“The whole meeting will underline the strong commitment of the international community to a stable future for Afghanistan, and Pakistan is an integral part of that,” said Oana Lungescu, a NATO spokeswoman.
The meeting will include Afghan President Hamid Karzai, along with NATO allies and International Security Assistance Force contributors. There will also be representatives from Russia, Japan and key international organizations like the United Nations and European Union.