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I warmly welcome the members of media to this joint Press Stakeout. I am happy to be with my brother Honourable Foreign Minister of Afghanistan,

His Excellency Mr. Salahuddin Rabbani, permanent co-host of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process.

The Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process was a joint initiative of Afghanistan and Turkey that commenced in 2011. Through this platform, we have been working together for peace and security, and economic cooperation and to collectively face the challenges emerging from terrorism, extremism, narcotics drugs and poverty.

Pakistan today co-hosted with Afghanistan the Fifth Ministerial Conference of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process. The Conference has been a great success and we have had very constructive and indepth deliberations, which culminated in adoption of the Islamabad Declaration.

First of all, I wish to express Pakistan’s deep gratitude to His Excellency Mr. Ashraf Ghani, President of Afghanistan, who graciously inaugurated the Conference with the Prime Minister of Pakistan, His Excellency Mr. Muhammad Nawaz Sharif. The two leaders have shared with us their vision for peace, security and stability in the region, which are so essential for the attainment of the well being of our peoples and economic development.

The Conference was attended by the Foreign Ministers and representatives from participating and supporting countries as well as regional and international organizations. This demonstrates the importance attached to the Heart of Asia Process. This provided us another opportunity to deliberate upon collective efforts for peace, security, and socio-development in Afghanistan and the region.

We are grateful to all participating and supporting countries and regional and international organizations for their support and valuable contribution to take the Process forward in 2015 – the year in which we were co-chair with Afghanistan.

The theme of today,s Conference was “Enhancing Cooperation to Counter Security Threats and Promoting Regional Connectivity in the Heart of Asia Region”. The Declaration adopted after consultations throughout the year, provides a roadmap and a number of concrete measures for stability in the region. This is essential for creating a conducive environment for the amelioration of our peoples. We agreed that an improved security environment in the region is also essential for expediting the implementation of mega road and rail connectivity projects and regional energy projects like TAPI and CASA-1000.

The Ministerial Conference reaffirmed commitment to six Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) of the Process. These CBMs facilitate cooperation in disaster management, counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics, trade, commercial and investment opportunities, regional infrastructure and education.

There was consensus among the participants that terrorism and violent extremism constitute major threat to regional peace and well-coordinated efforts were required to eliminate this scourge.

The Heart of Asia partners also affirmed their support for the resumption of an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led reconciliation process for achieving lasting peace in Afghanistan.

We also agreed that Afghan refugees should return to their homes with dignity and honour. The international community should provide support for smooth resettlement of Afghan refugees in their homeland.

I now give floor to His Excellency Mr. Salahuddin Rabbani, Foreign Minister of Afghanistan, for his remarks.

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