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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Afghanistan will soon commence negotiations for Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) and revision of Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement to optimally utilise capacities for mutually-beneficial trade and transit.

Talking to media after his meeting with Chairman High Council for National Reconciliation Dr Abdullah Abdullah upon his arrival on a three-day visit to Pakistan, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that Prime Minister's Adviser on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood would soon be visiting Kabul for strengthening economic ties between the two countries, where he would also hold discussions with the Afghan leadership on regional connectivity projects.

He said that Pakistan wanted a new beginning of relationship with Afghanistan to promote bilateral trade and regional connectivity, adding that prosperity and stability in Afghanistan was in Pakistan's national interest.

Qureshi said that Pakistan desired an end to the violence in Afghanistan and peaceful environment aimed at bringing peace and prosperity in the war-torn country.

Welcoming Dr Abdullah Abdullah and his delegation to Pakistan, the foreign minister expressed the hope that his visit would open a new chapter in bilateral relations.

He said that Dr Abdullah Abdullah's visit would greatly help to strengthen relations with Afghanistan, and forge a common understanding on the Afghan peace process.

He also extended best wishes to Dr Abdullah in steering the peace negotiations to a successful outcome.

Reaffirming Pakistan's steadfast support to the peace process, Foreign Minister Qureshi emphasized that Pakistan had always maintained there was no military solution to the Afghan conflict, and encouraged all parties to reach a political solution through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process.

Welcoming the inaugural ceremony of Intra-Afghan Negotiations, held in Doha on 12 September, Qureshi noted that it was now up to the Afghan leadership to seize this historic opportunity to bring an end to the decades' long conflict and secure an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement.

He underscored Pakistan's support for a peaceful, stable, united, sovereign and prosperous Afghanistan.

He stressed that mistakes of the past should not be repeated; nor should past history dictate the future course of action.

Foreign Minister Qureshi further underlined that there was a need to guard against the detrimental role of "spoilers", both within and outside Afghanistan, who did not wish to see return of peace in the region.

He underlined the high importance Pakistan attached to its brotherly relations with Afghanistan.

He stated that recently, at the request of the Afghanistan government, Pakistan opened five border crossing-points for facilitating transit trade, bilateral trade and pedestrian movement.

He also highlighted the US $1 billion development and capacity-building assistance that Pakistan had extended to support reconstruction and economic development in Afghanistan.

Emphasizing importance of bilateral economic relations, he noted that negotiations for Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) and revision of Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) would commence soon to optimally utilise our capacities for mutually-beneficial trade and transit.

The foreign minister stressed that return of Afghan refugees to their homeland with dignity and honour should be part of the peace and reconciliation process.

Highlighting that terrorism was a common threat, the foreign minister emphasized the need for close cooperation through bilateral institutional mechanisms including relevant working groups of the APAPPS for effective border management.

He said that Pakistan backed a peaceful and durable political solution of Afghanistan's conflict through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.

Pakistan, as a shared responsibility, has been playing the role of facilitator in the Afghan peace process, he added.

Qureshi said that the US-Taliban peace agreement and later the intra-Afghan dialogue held in Doha had raised the prospects of durable peace in Afghanistan.

He said the Afghan leadership should seize this historic opportunity and undertake serious efforts to take the Afghan peace process to a logical conclusion.

He said that the international community would have to come forward for the reconstruction and economic stability of Afghanistan.

The foreign minister said Pakistan respected the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Afghanistan, and wanted to develop strong economic cooperation with the neighboring country.

He also thanked the visiting delegation of Afghanistan led by Abdullah Abdullah to promote bilateral relations.

Dr Abdullah Abdullah commended conciliatory and sincere efforts being made by Pakistan to take the Afghan peace process to a logical conclusion.

He expressed his gratitude to Pakistani leadership over its role in the Afghan peace process.

The top Afghan leader is on his first visit to Pakistan as Chairman, High Council for National Reconciliation of Afghanistan.

He would hold meetings with President Dr Arif Alvi on Wednesday, and Prime Minister Imran Khan today (Tuesday).

Dr Abdullah Abdullah will also hold a one-on-one meeting with Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa followed by delegation-level talks at the COAS camp office in Rawalpindi today (Tuesday).

As per schedule of his engagements, Dr Abdullah Abdullah will also hold one-on-one meeting with Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani, besides interactions with think tankers.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020