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(2017-04-05) Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Mr. Sartaj Aziz, while briefing the National Assembly Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs today stated that Pakistan was pursuing a policy of strengthening relations with Afghanistan. He said that with a view to further enhancing people-to-people exchanges, Pakistan was working on modernization of the visa system and facilities at border crossing points.

Adviser Sartaj Aziz informed the Standing Committee that to further deepen the cultural and educational linkages between the two countries, the Government was also focusing on efforts to increase facilities for Afghan students in Pakistan’s educational institutions. In this regard, the government has announced another 3000 scholarships for Afghan students in the field of higher education after utilization of the existing 3000 scholarships. On the Afghan transit trade, he urged the Afghan government to convene the next meeting of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Coordination Authority at the earliest for revising and strengthening APTTA.

Adviser Sartaj Aziz underlined the importance of close engagement between the two sides on connectivity projects in infrastructure and energy. He said that $500 million economic assistance from Pakistan could be utilized for initiating these connectivity projects.

On the issue of peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan, Adviser Sartaj Aziz reiterated that there was no military solution to the Afghan conflict and there was need of focused efforts for a politically negotiated settlement for lasting peace in Afghanistan. In this regard, Pakistan remained committed to continued efforts for facilitating an Afghan-owned Afghan-led peace process.

Describing terrorism as a common threat, Sartaj Aziz said that the bilateral mechanism recently agreed between the two countries provided an opportunity for engagement to address the issues of counter-terrorism and border management.

5 April 2017

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