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Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me immense pleasure to warmly welcome you at Islamabad.

I wish you an enjoyable and comfortable stay in Pakistan and hope that your deliberations would be constructive and meaningful.

Distinguished delegates,

Pakistan wants durable peace and stability in Afghanistan. Instability in Afghanistan is not in our interest. We will, therefore, continue to support all endeavours aiming at strengthening peace and security in Afghanistan.

The Heart of Asia initiative is an effective platform for promoting regional economic cooperation and connectivity in the Heart of Asia region with Afghanistan at its center. It provides the member countries an opportunity for engaging in result-oriented cooperation for a peaceful and stable Afghanistan and a secure and prosperous region as a whole.

Since the launching of the Heart of Asia process in Istanbul in 2011, the forum has continued to make good progress towards realization of its core objective of promoting durable peace and stability in Afghanistan. The key achievements include:

Political consultations involving Afghanistan and its neighbours and regional countries with a view to promoting mutual trust in the areas of security and economic interaction are creating a positive space.

CBMs identified in the Istanbul Process document are leading to enhanced regional engagement and cooperation of the Heart of Asia countries with Afghanistan in the areas such as trade and economic cooperation, energy, counter terrorism, counternarcotics, disaster management, regional infrastructure and education.

The Heart of Asia process is contributing to bring greater coherence to the work of other regional organizations, projects and processes focusing on Afghanistan, such as TAPI, CASA 1000 and various other initiatives.

Distinguished delegates,

As Heart of Asia-Istanbul process is maturing, our focus has to be on strengthening our engagement and collaboration with a view to effectively combating the formidable challenges confronting the region, in the field of security as well as promoting regional economic interaction.

Conducive political and security environment is vital for promoting regional economic cooperation and connectivity. Our region is mired in dire security challenges which are hampering our socio-economic development. The theme of this Heart of Asia-Istanbul Conference “Enhanced Cooperation for Countering Security Threats and Promoting Connectivity in the Heart of Asia Region” is, therefore, pertinent to the needs of our region.

Terrorism continues to be a major threat to global and regional peace. During last few years, Pakistan has suffered huge human and economic losses due to this menace. Our resolute struggle against terrorism is now bringing the fruit of peace and prosperity to our people. In our view, closer regional cooperation can play an effective role in eliminating the scourge of terrorism.

Distinguished delegates,

I hope that your deliberations in today’s Senior Officials Meeting will encompass all these important dimensions and issues relating to peace and security, economic cooperation, and regional connectivity.

I am confident that your valuable input to the Ministerial Conference tomorrow will contribute to the adoption of Islamabad Declaration stipulating concrete measures and actions for a deeper engagement amongst the countries of the Heart of Asia region.

I once again wish you a very pleasant and comfortable stay in Pakistan.

Look forward to welcoming you this evening at dinner and cultural programme.

Thank you.

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