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Pakistan and Afghanistan reaffirmed their resolve at the highest level to transform bilateral ties and build a relationship marked by close cooperation on the political and security planes and a strong economic foundation. The commitment was made during the meeting between Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani today.

Following the official welcoming ceremony at the Prime Minister’s House, the two leaders first had a one-on-one meeting and later led their respective sides at the delegation-level talks. The wide-ranging consultations between the two leaders covered all aspects of Pakistan-Afghanistan relations, situation in the region, and regional economic cooperation.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif extended a warm welcome to the President of Afghanistan and conveyed cordial greetings of the people of Pakistan. He congratulated President Ashraf Ghani on successful democratic transition in Afghanistan and his assumption of office. He appreciated President Ashraf Ghani’s bold vision and strong leadership and wished him well in the realization of his domestic reform agenda.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reaffirmed that a peaceful, stable, united and prosperous Afghanistan is in Pakistan’s vital interest. He outlined his vision of a strong, comprehensive and enduring partnership between Pakistan and Afghanistan. To this end, the Prime Minister underscored the importance of multi-tiered bilateral engagement, including at the political, security, economic, leadership, and people-to-people levels.

Reaffirming Pakistan’s resolve to fight terrorism and extremism, the Prime Minister highlighted the positive results of Operation Zarb-e-Azb. He underscored the importance of both sides working together to address common security challenges through common endeavours. The Prime Minister also reaffirmed Pakistan’s support for Afghan efforts for peace and reconciliation.

In the regional context, the Prime Minister highlighted his vision of a peaceful neighbourhood and Pakistan’s endeavours to build cooperative ties with all neighbours, including India. In this regard, he noted Pakistan’s commitment to purposeful dialogue and peaceful resolution of outstanding issues.

The Prime Minister also underscored the importance of regional economic cooperation, laying a strong emphasis on road and rail links and key energy projects including CASA-1000 and TAPI gas pipeline.

President Ashraf Ghani expressed his thanks for the Prime Minister’s invitation and conveyed greetings on behalf of the leadership of the National Unity Government and the people of Afghanistan. He appreciated the Prime Minister’s vision for peace and democracy and the commitment to build a stronger partnership between Afghanistan and Pakistan. President Ashraf Ghani affirmed the importance Afghanistan attached to forging a “special relationship” with Pakistan. In this context, he inter alia emphasized the importance of mutual trust and understanding, close political and security engagement, a comprehensive economic strategy, and increased regional economic cooperation. President Ashraf Ghani also extended an invitation to the Prime Minister to pay a visit to Afghanistan.

In the presence of the two leaders, the two Finance Ministers signed Agreed Minutes on matters relating to enhancing bilateral trade, promoting investment and joint production in designated free economic zones in Afghanistan, streamlining transit trade matters, provision of technical assistance, strengthening road and rail links, expeditiously completing as well as expanding reconstruction and capacity-building projects with Pakistan’s bilateral assistance, enhancing energy collaboration including joint ventures in petroleum sector, and facilitating Pakistan’s access to Central Asian markets.

Among other things, the two sides agreed to hold the next meeting of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Coordination Authority (APTTCA) by December 2014. It was also decided to provide an institutional platform for enhanced business and investment collaboration by forming a Joint Business Council. The two sides also set the target of bilateral trade at $ 5 billion by the end of 2017. It was also agreed to initiate negotiations on a Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA).

After the signing ceremony, Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and President Ashraf Ghani had a joint press stake-out. The Prime Minister then hosted a luncheon in honour of the President of Afghanistan and his entourage.

Later, the two leaders watched a friendly cricket match between the national “A” teams of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

President Ashraf Ghani’s other engagements during the second day of his 2-day visit to Pakistan included the planting of a sapling at Shakarparian and meetings with members of Pakistan-Afghanistan Parliamentary Friendship Group. Besides, the Chief Minister of Punjab called on President Ashraf Ghani. The Ministers of Commerce and Textile Industry also made a joint call on the President.

The visit of President Ashraf Ghani advances the process of deep and wide-ranging engagement between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pakistan remains committed to forging a bilateral relationship that contributes to the security and prosperity of the two countries and promotes the cause of peace, stability and development in the region.

15 November 2014

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