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At the invitation of Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai arrived in Islamabad today. A high-level delegation is accompanying the Afghan President including Foreign Minister Dr. Zalmai Rassoul, National Security Adviser Dr. Rangin Dadfar Spanta, Finance Minister Dr. Hazrat Omer Zakhilwall, Commerce and Industries Minister Dr. Anwarul Haq Ahady, and Chairman of the High Peace Council Salahuddin Rabbani.

During the visit, the Prime Minister and the Afghan President had a one-on-one meeting. The two leaders later led delegation-level talks. The Prime Minister hosted a lunch in honour of the Afghan President and the visiting entourage. President Karzai had a separate meeting with President Asif Ali Zardari.

The meetings were held in a warm and cordial atmosphere. The Prime Minister stressed the importance Pakistan attaches to a peaceful, stable and united Afghanistan. The Prime Minister also reaffirmed Pakistan’s strong support for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan, through an inclusive, Afghan-owned and Afghan-led process.

The Prime Minister underlined Pakistan’s commitment to fight extremism and terrorism, which remained a formidable challenge faced by both countries and the region. He assured President Karzai that Pakistan will continue to extend all possible facilitation to efforts for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. Pakistan would also help reinforce regional efforts in support of stabilization of Afghanistan.

President Karzai expressed his gratitude to the Prime Minister for the invitation and extended felicitations on behalf of the Afghan people to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on his re-election for the third time. He underlined the importance Afghanistan attached to its relations with Pakistan, continued cooperation to address common challenges including extremism and terrorism, and efforts to strengthen bilateral cooperation in diverse fields. The Afghan President further underlined the importance of Pakistan’s endeavours to support the Afghan peace and reconciliation process.

The Prime Minister expressed the new government’s resolve to further deepen and broaden the Pakistan-Afghanistan bilateral relationship in all dimensions. He stressed that bilateral relations must be underpinned by a strong trade and economic partnership. The Afghan side reciprocated the desire to deepen the bilateral relationship, with a particular focus on expanded trade, economic cooperation, and trans-regional projects for connectivity.

Immediately prior to President Karzai’s visit, the Finance Ministers of the two countries had held a fruitful meeting on 25 August 2013 and agreed to take steps for strengthening bilateral cooperation in the areas of communications, energy, roads and railways links, regional development and connectivity. Both sides further agreed to streamline matters relating to the implementation of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) for ensuring its optimal utilization. The meeting of the Coordinating Authority established under APTTA will be convened and the progress reported to the two Finance Ministers. The two sides also decided to hold the next session of the Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Economic Commission (JEC) in Kabul in October 2013. The two Finance Ministers signed the Agreed Minutes in a ceremony today, also witnessed by the two leaders.

President Karzai had a separate meeting with President Asif Ali Zardari, during which he lauded the President’s contribution to the democratic transition in Pakistan and to the growth of Pakistan-Afghanistan relations. The President reiterated Pakistan’s abiding commitment to strengthening bilateral relations with Afghanistan marked by deeper economic engagement on the bilateral and regional planes.

The Prime Minister asked President Karzai to extend his stay in Pakistan so that the two leaders could continue to confer on matters of common interest in the bilateral and regional context. The Afghan President has agreed to stay. The Prime Minister will host a lunch for President Karzai tomorrow.

This is President Karzai’s first visit since the democratic transition in Pakistan and the formation of the new government in June 2013. The visit reflects the readiness on both sides to work together for the furtherance of shared objectives of peace, stability and prosperity in the region and beyond.

26 August 2013

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