Monday, February 06, 2006

Secret Contacts at the Summit Level Between Israel and Afghanistan

Senior diplomats from Israel and Afghanistan met secretly in London last week, stepping up lower-level contacts that took place earlier in Europe , an Israeli daily reported Monday. The Maariv daily said the two sides have been discussing cooperation in areas where Afghanistan needs Israeli equipment and expertise. It did not elaborate. READ MORE

The Israeli delegation included the director of the foreign ministry, Ron Prosor, and Yaakov Dayan, a senior aide to Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, the report said.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev would not confirm the report, but said Israel has continuously tried to improve its relationships with the Muslim world.

"There is no reason Israel could not have more normal and cooperative relationships with countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Indonesia, and we're working toward that end," he said.

In an AP interview last month, Afghanistan's pro-Western president, Hamid Karzai, said his government would forge official diplomatic ties with Israel if the Palestinians can form a state of their own.

"If a Palestinian state is recognized, we will recognize Israel, we will have relations with Israel. We will have trade with Israel ," he said at the time.

Karzai also gave an interview to an Israeli paper last October, congratulating Israel for its withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and saying he had met Israeli politician Shimon Peres. After Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a stroke early last month, Karzai wished the Israeli leader a speedy recovery.

Israel and Afghanistan have never had formal relations. Forging ties with Israel would infuriate Afghanistan's neighbor Iran, which has called for Israel's destruction.

Afghanistan is the latest Muslim state to make gestures toward Israel. Since the Gaza pullout was completed in September, Israeli diplomats have met with counterparts from Qatar , Pakistan and Indonesia , reports the AP.