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Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan to hold joint military exercise

Turkish President Abdullah Gül (C), Afghan leader Hamid Karzai (L) and Pakistan’s Asif Ali Zardari.

Turkey will hold a joint military exercise with Afghanistan and Pakistan in March 2011, the leaders of the three countries reportedly decided during a trilateral summit held Friday in Istanbul.

Turkish diplomatic sources speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation confirmed the plans Friday to the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.

“Development [of our countries] is a strategic tool to maintain peace, stability and serenity,” Turkish President Abdullah Gül said Friday in his opening speech at the summit, which followed a meeting of Central Asian countries belonging to the Economic Cooperation Organization.

Security and development were the main issues discussed at the trilateral summit. In his speech, Gül said the three countries had to provide a positive environment for private investment and strengthen cooperation in the fields of air transportation, commerce and energy.

In addition to the training exercise, the heads of state also decided to establish infrastructure for audiovisual conferences as well as a natural disaster emergency operation center. Four main decisions were made regarding security issues including joint military drills, the fight against terrorism, a joint program on police cooperation and one on the fight against drug trafficking.

An “ideas platform” will also be launched in order to increase communication and cooperation among researchers, academics and media outlets in the three countries. The leaders also agreed to launch a cultural exhibition that will highlight the heritage of the three countries and strengthen cultural ties.

“Friendship among the people of our countries has deep historical roots,” Gül said in his speech, adding that relations between the three countries have progressed and gained momentum since the first trilateral summit, held in Ankara in 2007.

The fifth trilateral summit took place directly after the 11th ECO Summit. Previous summits have focused on a variety of topics, including dialogue and mutual security, economic cooperation, security and education.

Iran nuke talks

A diplomatic solution to Iran’s controversial nuclear program is Turkey’s most sincere offer, Gül told his Iranian counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in a meeting Thursday evening, diplomatic sources told a group of journalists Friday. Gül said Turkey was making its efforts due to the responsibility it feels as Iran’s neighbor and that Turkey was ready to contribute in any way to secure positive results in the Istanbul nuclear talks to be held in January between Iran and world leaders in the P5+1, the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany.

Ahmadinejad said he was glad relations between the two countries were improving day by day and that Turkey was developing at a very fast pace. Cooperation between Turkey and Iran is constructive both regionally and globally, the Iranian leader said, according to diplomatic sources.

Turkish President Gül also met Friday with his Kyrgyz counterpart, Roza Otunbayeva, and suggested she invite Turkish firms to invest in her country, which is rich in natural resources and mines. Turkish companies are disciplined and will attract other investors to Kyrgyzstan by setting a good example, Gül told Otunbayeva, according to diplomatic sources. He also said justice and the rule of law would bring Kyrgyzstan much more welfare than oil and natural gas.

Afghanistan has meanwhile asked for Turkey’s technical assistance in increasing project-development capacity; the Afghan president told Gül that his country has decided to become a partner of the ECO Commerce and Development Bank. Azerbaijan also said it had decided to become a partner of the bank, while Kazakhstan said it would do so in the near future.

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