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Ashraf Ghani agreed to new chapter of friendship

28 June, 2019

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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan and President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani Thursday agreed to open a new chapter of friendship and cooperation between both countries based on mutual trust and harmony for the benefit of their people.

The two leaders, in a one-on-one meeting that was also followed by delegation-level talks, exchanged views advancing the cause of peace, stability and prosperity in the region. The prime minister affirmed that Pakistan remains committed to bringing about a qualitative transformation in Pakistan-Afghanistan relations as part of his vision of a ‘peaceful neighbourhood’. He reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to support the Afghan peace process as a shared responsibility. He underlined that an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process is the only viable option to end decades-long conflict in Afghanistan. In this regard, Pakistan supports a result-oriented intra-Afghan dialogue, he added, according to a press statement issued by the PM Office.

The prime minister underscored Pakistan’s respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Afghanistan and its commitment to stand by the Afghan people at this crucial juncture. “Pakistan remains committed to a peaceful, stable, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan and wishes to have stronger political, trade, economic, and people-to-people relations with Afghanistan,” he added.

The two leaders agreed on the importance of crafting a forward-looking vision of Pakistan-Afghanistan relations. They emphasised that enduring peace in Afghanistan will bring rich economic dividends to both the countries, and reaffirmed their commitment to work together to broaden and deepen bilateral trade, streamline transit trade, and strengthen efforts for connectivity.

It was recognised that early completion of major energy connectivity projects such as Central Asia-South Asia (CASA 1000) electricity transmission line and Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline will bring long-term economic benefits to the countries involved. Further ways of strengthening trade, infrastructure and energy connectivity were also explored. It was agreed to optimally utilise the existing mechanisms including-Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Coordination Authority (APTTCA) and Joint Economic Commission (JEC) to remove difficulties in transit and bilateral trade and to explore new possibilities of mutually-beneficial economic and commercial relations. The prime minister also shared his vision for peace, progress and prosperity in South Asia.

Earlier, on his arrival at the Nur Khan Airbase, President Ashraf Ghani was given a 21-gun salute. An official welcoming ceremony including guard of honour was held at the PM House, where Prime Minister Imran Khan warmly received President Ghani. The prime minister also hosted a banquet luncheon in honour of the visiting dignitary and his entourage.

President Dr Arif Alvi, in a separate meeting with President Ashraf Ghani, affirmed Pakistan’s resolve to forge a closer relationship with Afghanistan marked by deeper cooperation in all spheres. The two presidents agreed that moving forward and building a relationship that served the cause of peace, security and prosperity was in the best interest of the two countries.

All aspects of Pakistan-Afghanistan relations came under review during the meeting. President Alvi underlined the importance that Pakistan attaches to enhanced political, trade, economic, commercial, educational and people-to-people ties with Afghanistan. Emphasising the need for a peaceful solution of the conflict in Afghanistan, President Alvi underscored the importance of an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process in this regard.

President Alvi appreciated the progress achieved by Afghanistan during the past 18 years, despite enormous challenges. He reassured that Pakistan, besides playing its role in the peace process, stands ready to help Afghan reconstruction and development efforts. The president also underlined the need for the world community’s engagement with Afghanistan in the post-settlement phase.

The two leaders agreed that both Afghanistan and Pakistan will gain tremendously from peace and stability in the region. They further agreed that increased connectivity between Pakistan and Afghanistan will help accelerate the trade and energy flows and contribute to the prosperity of the two countries and the region. The role of new technologies in this context was also recognised.

Following the meeting, President Alvi hosted a banquet dinner in honour of President Ghani and his entourage.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that Pakistan will do its utmost to facilitate Afghan peace process, intra-Afghan dialogue and to gain each other’s trust.

In his welcome remarks for President Ghani’s talks at the Institute of Strategic Studies, he said President Ghani’s visit symbolises shared desire of the two countries to enhance leadership level engagements between Islamabad and Kabul.

The foreign minister said both sides have very constructive input towards looking engagements, adding that this visit of President Ghani will be a watershed and a turning point by not accusing each other like in the past and looking forward. He said Prime Minister Imran Khan has for a long time been stressing that a negotiated political solution is the only way forward and it was gratifying that the whole community today fully accepts this prescription.

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and welcomed him over his arrival in Pakistan. Bilawal expressed his good wishes for the ongoing Afghan peace process. The meeting was also attended by PPP’s senior leaders Farhatullah Babar and Sherry Rehman.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Shehbaz Sharif held a separate meeting with the visiting president. Leader of the Opposition in National Assembly welcomed the dignitary and expressed happiness upon his visit.

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