Heart of Asia Conference: (Pakistan to continue to support Afghan peace process)

ISLAMABAD: Inaugurating the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process Ministerial conference along with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani here on Wednesday, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called for collective approach to combat the menace of extremism and terrorism.

He said Afghanistan is more than a neighbour for Pakistan, as both the countries have historic cultural and religious affinities. He said Pakistan will always stand by Afghanistan. He said the international community respects the sovereignty and integrity of Afghanistan.

He said the democratically elected government in Afghanistan is the legitimate authority in the country. He said the enemies of Afghanistan are the enemies of Pakistan and the government will continue to support an Afghan led and Afghan owned peace process that remains the most viable option to promote stability and end violence.

Nawaz Sharif called upon the international community to extend full support to Afghan peace efforts. He said Pakistan is pursuing the policy of peaceful neighbourhood as peace is vital for development and peace. He said Pakistan remains committed to strengthening its relations with all neighbours and regional countries as well as promoting regional cooperation and connectivity.

In his remarks on the occasion, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani appreciated Pakistan for launching operation Zarb-e-Azb against the terrorists. He said his country desires strong people-to-people contacts with Pakistan for further strengthening of relations and mutual trust. He thanked Pakistan for hosting millions of Afghan refugees on its territory over the last many decades.

He pointed out that TAPI is a very important regional energy project which will soon be inaugurated in Turkmenistan. CASA 100 project will also bring the people of the region closer together. He said terrorism is a common problem of Pakistan and Afghanistan as both the countries have suffered immensely in the war against this menace.

Addressing the conference, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said her country is ready to extend cooperation for the restoration of peace in Afghanistan. She said the regional connectivity and promotion of trade was essential for peace and security. She said elimination of terrorism from Afghanistan was a collective responsibility.

The Kyrgyzstan representative in his speech said effective steps are needed to be taken to stamp out terrorism from the region. The countries participating and supporting Istanbul Process reaffirmed their commitment to respect independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Afghanistan.

Addressing Heart of Asia Conference here on Wednesday, the Foreign Ministers and heads of delegations also supported reconciliation process in Afghanistan and strengthening of regional connectivity. Foreign Minister of China Wang Yi called upon all sides in Afghanistan to resume peace talks at an early date in the larger interest of the country.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said his country will continue to work to create better understanding between Pakistan and Afghanistan for durable peace in the region.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said terrorism, extremism and narcotics continue to threaten Afghanistan, the region and the whole world. Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj stated that her country is committed to peace, stability and development of Afghanistan. She used the platform to highlight India’s aspiration to have an overland trade access through Pakistan to Afghanistan and Central Asia.

She also reiterated India’s desire to become a party to the Transit Trade Agreement between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani said Pakistan and Afghanistan are vital to each other for peace, stability and prosperity. Foreign Minister of Kyrgystan Abdyldaev Erlan Bekeshovs stressed the need to work together under the auspices of UN and other international organizations to defeat terrorism and extremism.

Tajik Foreign Minister Aslov Sirojidin Muhridinovich said lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan requires assistance in tackling economic and social problems. He proposed that the Conference should identify concrete projects for economic development of Afghanistan and regional connectivity. Latvian Foreign Minister urged the international community to increase economic and financial assistance for Afghanistan.

In his address, US Deputy Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said the whole world stand by Afghanistan against terrorists. Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister said Saudi Arabia was among the first countries to have launched a campaign to fight terrorism and protect its people. Later, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani held a meeting. They discussed bilateral relations, reconciliation process in Afghanistan and regional security situation.



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