01 February 2009

DPJ envisions new role brokering Afghan ceasefire if it takes power (Japan Times)

*Click the title above to read the Japanese verison of this release.

Sunday, Feb. 1, 2009

The Democratic Party of Japan is looking to take an active role in brokering a ceasefire in Afghanistan between U.S.-led forces and Taliban militants if it topples the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and takes power in the next election, according to a draft plan obtained by Kyodo News on Saturday.

With public support for Prime Minister Taro Aso plummeting to historic lows, the main opposition party has been compiling foreign policy goals as it sets its sights on winning the election, which must be held by September.

The DPJ-led government will call on the United Nations to press for the withdrawal of U.S., NATO and Pakistani forces stationed in Afghanistan and instead set up an international team of truce monitors including Japan and several Arab countries not involved in the conflict, the draft said.

The envisioned ceasefire surveillance team would not carry arms and would support Afghan police and Pakistani paramilitary forces to maintain security. Japan would send the Self-Defense Forces, while calling on Arab countries like Saudi Arabia and Jordan to participate.

"We will make it clear that this will be different from the past involvement of foreign troops," a member who participated in compiling the draft said. "Not bearing arms will be an extremely important message that will help to establish peace."

Under the scheme, a nonpartisan group of lawmakers would be established so that working-level talks between Taliban representatives and Afghan and Pakistani ministerial-level officials can be held, according to the draft.

Japan would also host an international conference in Tokyo to find a path toward achieving peace in Afghanistan and ultimately invite Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Zardari to the capital to ink a formal agreement on terminating conflict in Afghanistan, according to the plan.

The plan may still face opposition within the DPJ, given the low probability of a ceasefire being reached in the unstable conditions plaguing in Afghanistan. It may also risk damaging Japanese-U.S. relations since new U.S. President Barack Obama has vowed to increase U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

"The United States is beginning to study an exit strategy and there is still ample room for talks," another official in charge of compiling the draft said.

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