Soviets blast Pakistan for holding up Afghan talks. Moscow backs Kabul regime's rejection of key Pakistani and US demands
The Soviet Union Thursday accused Pakistan of bogging down UN-sponsored talks on Afghanistan by ``killing time'' and ``raising new issues.'' Soviet envoy Nikolai Kozyrev, who is overseeing the position of the Moscow-backed Afghan delegation at talks here, maintained ``no progress'' has been made since the Afghans accepted a 9-month withdrawal period for Soviet forces last week. This is the first time Soviet officials have spoken out publicly in Geneva since the talks began in 1982.Skip to next paragraph
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Speaking at the Soviet mission to the UN, Mr. Kozyrev warned that if no accord is reached by March 15, Pakistan will bear the blame for the failure.
Moscow's stand, say sources who have been observing the week-long talks, could indefinitely delay a negotiated settlement by strengthening Kabul's ``no'' on two key issues:
Pakistan's demand that the UN withdrawal plan be linked to provisions for a new transition government in Kabul that would be acceptable to the Afghan guerrillas and refugees.
The United States' insistence that it will stop supplying the Afghan resistance only if Moscow simultaneously cuts off aid to the communist government in Kabul.
Both Moscow and Kabul Foreign Minister Abdul Wakil maintain that Pakistan's insistence on a transitional government is a new issue and not part of the proposed four-part Geneva settlement. On Wednesday, Mr. Wakil said his government would not discuss Pakistani Foreign Minister Zain Noorani's demand for the formation of an interim administration.
Mr. Noorani has argued that a transitional government acceptable to the Afghan guerrillas and millions of refugees must be created to accompany Soviet withdrawal. If not, civil war will break out and the 3 million refugees on Pakistani soil will not return home.
Mr. Kozyrev stressed that the Soviet Union would continue furnishing aid to Afghanistan as part of a bilateral 1921 treaty. But this aid, he said, ``would not include troops.''
The question of a ``symmetrical'' halt of aid was reportedly being discussed by Soviet and US officials on the fringes of the Pakistan-Afghan negotiations. But Kozyrev said the US demand ``is not the subject of negotiation and it is not part of the agenda of the Geneva [talks].''
Nevertheless, some observers expect UN special-mediator Diego Cordovez to still push for a settlement, even if the signing of any accords has to be backdated to March 15 - the deadline Mr. Gorbachev has set to start pulling out 115,000 Soviet troops on May 15.
What Mr. Gorbachev needs, one analyst says, is a settlement that will allow the Red Army to start pulling out on May 15 - without leaving the impression that it has been defeated in the eight-year war by Afghan guerrillas. Gorbachev needs to present the move as a foreign policy achievement, particularly for the Soviet Communist Party conference to be held in June - the first since 1941, according to this analyst.
The US, on the other hand, does not want to be seen as having abandoned the Afghan resistance. And the Pakistanis would like an agreement that will ensure sufficient security inside Afghanistan during the withdrawal to encourage the refugees to go back.
The conflicts of interest over an Afghan settlement are not confined to the superpowers and the Pakistani and Afghan officials alone.
Serious problems have also emerged among Afghan resistance leaders based in Peshawar, Pakistan. They have been trying to cobble together an interim government at Pakistani urging. Earlier this week, Afghan moderate leader Sibghatullah Mojaddidi of the National Liberation Front of Afghanistan resigned from the alliance. This move seriously threatened Pakistan's hope for guerrilla unity and a transitional government.
Mr. Mojaddidi bitterly complained about efforts by the four so-called ``fundamentalist'' parties to dominate the resistance. The extremism embraced by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-e-Islami faction, he said, was seriously undermining the possibilities of peace in Afghanistan.
According to sources contacted in Peshawar, however, Mojaddidi has agreed to rejoin the alliance in return for Pakistani assurances for a more balanced representation among the guerrillas, particularly the commanders of the interior and Afghanistan's minority Shiite Muslim population.
The Peshawar parties have been meeting virtually nonstop since Wednesday and may agree to send an alliance delegation to Geneva next week. If an agreement is signed, the resistance groups may also seek to organize a ``loya jirga'' (grand assembly) with representatives from each of Afghanistan's 28 provinces.