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Medvedev, Zardari back Karzai against Taliban

Reuters

The presidents of Pakistan and Russia have backed the Afghan government in its fight with the Taliban. The three countries have often had troubled relations, but Russia’s Dmitri Medvedev and Pakistan’s Asif Ali Zardari both offered their support to Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai at a summit on the Black Sea on Wednesday.

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"We support the fight of the Afghan government against terrorism and are ready to fully help in this direction," Medvedev told Karzai in a bilateral meeting before the full summit in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Dossier: AfPak news and analysis

Russia still bears the scars of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, which ended in 1989, while Kabul has frequently accused Islamabad of backing the Taliban and other armed Islamist groups. British Prime Minister David Cameron recently angered the Pakistanis by echoing the charge on a visit to India.

But on Wednesday Zardari declared that the region must “stand together”.

“We can do it, we can do it altogether,” he told Medvedev. “We should support the Afghan people."

Zardari also met Karzai before the full meeting, which also included Tajikistan President President Emomali Rakhmon, whose country borders Afghanistan.

Russia is looking into the possibility of selling more helicopters to Afghanistan, according to Medvedev’s foreign affairs adviser Sergei Prikhodo. Nato has apparently urged Moscow to supply helicopters and training to the Afghan air force but Russia says it is not prepared to do so without payment, which might put it in competition with some Nato states.

Russian officials have also urged Nato and US forces to do more to stop drugs crossing the border into central Asia. Afghanistan provides more than 90 per cent of the world’s heroin, the bulk of which passes through former-Soviet central Asia and Russia.

Zardari, whose visit has been cut from two days to a few hours after criticism of his two-week absence as devastating floods hit his country, declared that Pakistan will “come out of this a stronger nation”.

"We have... the capabilities, we have the people, and all tragedies always unite nations,” he said. “This tragedy will again unite us."
 

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