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At the invitation of H.E. Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, H.E. Dr. Zalmai Rassoul, Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan paid a 2-day official visit to Islamabad from 24 to 25 June 2010. This was Dr. Zalmai Rassoul's first bilateral visit to Pakistan as the Foreign Minister of Afghanistan after assuming this position earlier this year.

Dr. Zalmai Rassoul called on H.E. President Asif Ali Zardari and H.E. Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani and discussed with them matters of mutual interest.

The two Foreign Ministers held in-depth discussions on a wide range of issues of mutual interest in an atmosphere of cordiality. They focused especially on the threat of terrorism, extremism and militancy, bilateral cooperation in political and economic fields and regional and international issues of common concern.

They recalled the Joint Declaration between Pakistan and Afghanistan on Directions of Bilateral Cooperation signed in January 2009 in Islamabad.

They further recalled the visit of H.E. Hamid Karzai, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to Pakistan in March 2010 noting that the visit had helped open a new chapter in Pakistan-Afghanistan bilateral relations.

They noted in particular the “Joint Declaration on Next Steps in Afghanistan-Pakistan Comprehensive Cooperation” signed during this visit, which provided a solid basis for multi-disciplinary cooperation.

They reiterated that bilateral relations of the two countries were based on respect for each other's sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-interference in internal affairs.

They agreed further that it was imperative not to allow their territories for use against each others' interests.

They reaffirmed their commitment to enhance cooperation and coordination bilaterally as well as within the framework of regional and international agreements to counter terrorism.

They emphasized the need to strengthen further economic and commercial ties and to facilitate trade and transit, with a view to realizing the full potential of the two countries.

They agreed to take all possible steps to increase the current volume of bilateral trade (currently US$ 1.5 billion) to US$ 5 billion by 2015 as agreed during President Karzai's visit to Pakistan on 10-11 March 2010.

The two Foreign Ministers reiterated their commitment towards an early finalization of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement.

Dr. Zalmai Rassoul provided a detailed briefing on the outcome of the Afghan Peace Jirga, held at Kabul on 2-4 June 2010.

Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi congratulated Dr. Zalmai Rassoul on the successful conclusion of the Afghan Peace Jirga.

He reaffirmed Pakistan's full support to the roadmap announced by H.E. President Hamid Karzai and to the Afghan-owned and Afghan-led process of reconciliation.

He reaffirmed further Pakistan's commitment to work closely with the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan as well as the international community for sustainable peace, stability and development in Afghanistan.

Foreign Minister Qureshi assured all cooperation and assistance to ensure the success of the forthcoming Kabul Conference, scheduled for 20 July 2010.

The two Foreign Ministers expressed satisfaction over the current state of bilateral relations but felt that various institutional frameworks needed to be evolved to give further impetus to bilateral cooperation in various areas.

With this in view they agreed to establish the following institutional frameworks:

•  The two countries enjoyed cordial relations, which needed to be sustained through leadership and official level contacts at regular intervals. In this context, the Foreign Ministers would meet twice a year while Additional Secretary/Deputy Foreign Minister level meetings may also be held twice a year for more detailed discussions.

•  Parliamentary exchanges complement political level interaction and promote people-to-people contacts as well as build mutual trust and confidence. The Ministers agreed that Parliamentary exchanges should be encouraged to the extent possible.

•  The Ministers agreed that the two countries enjoyed substantial cooperation in the field of education. They decided to establish a “Joint Education Commission” to facilitate and coordinate bilateral cooperation in the field of education. The Commission will be co-chaired by Ministers of Education on annual basis.

•  The Ministers agreed to establish a “Joint Commission on Border Cooperation and Visa Regime” to facilitate and oversee the cross-border movement of humans and vehicles. Ministers of Interior will co-chair this Commission once a year.

•  Pakistan and Afghanistan share immense cultural commonalities. In order to facilitate the exchange of visits of journalists, poets, writers, musicians and artistes, they agreed to establish a “Pakistan-Afghanistan Information and Cultural Foundation” to be co-chaired by Information Ministers.

•  Taking a cue from a decision reached during President Karzai's visit to Pakistan in March this year, the Ministers agreed to operationalize the “Silk Route CEOs Forum” through the meeting of the Chambers of Commerce and Industries and the private sectors of the two countries on the sidelines of the next high level visit from either side. The Forum could be expanded further at a later date.

•  The Ministers also agreed to operationalize, in pursuance of a decision reached during H.E. President Hamid Karzai's visit to Pakistan, a “Pakistan-Afghanistan Reconstruction Consortium” through the first meeting in Islamabad of the Boards of Investment and Chambers of Commerce and Industries of the two countries. The Forum could identify the reconstruction projects in Afghanistan for funding by Pakistan out of the amount pledged by the Government for this purpose. The two countries could jointly explore other ways and means for funding such projects.

Dr. Zalmai Rassoul's visit and his meeting with Pakistani leadership reinvigorated the fact that Pakistan and Afghanistan stand united in a natural partnership. The visit would go a long way in cementing further the close and fraternal ties between the two countries.



25 June 2010


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