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ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi emphasized the need for optimal utilisation of enormous synergies and complementarities existing in trade and economic affairs between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The foreign minister was speaking to Afghanistan's Wolesi Jirga Speaker Mir Rahman Rahmani, who called him on Saturday, the Foreign Office said.

Qureshi said a new visa regime had been implemented for Afghan nationals, which would facilitate people-to-people links.

Welcoming the visiting dignitary, the foreign minister highlighted the importance Pakistan attaches to its fraternal relations with Afghanistan.

He also emphasized the importance of inter-parliamentary cooperation between the two countries, with increased interaction through the respective Parliamentary Friendship Groups as well as between women parliamentarians on both sides.

Qureshi reaffirmed Pakistan's support for a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan and highlighted Pakistan's positive contribution to the Afghan peace process.

He stressed that after the Afghans themselves, no other country had a greater stake in lasting peace in Afghanistan than Pakistan.

He noted that Prime Minister Imran Khan had repeatedly underlined that there was no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan and that a political solution was the only way forward.

The US-Taliban peace agreement has provided a historic opportunity for the Afghan leaders to now work together and secure an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement, he added.

The foreign minister underlined that progress in the intra-Afghan negotiations would help in reduction in violence leading to ceasefire.

He also cautioned that there was a need to remain watchful of the role of 'spoilers' who did not wish to see peace and stability return to Afghanistan or were averse to strong Pakistan-Afghanistan relations.

On the bilateral plan, the foreign minister stressed the importance of Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS), noting that this mechanism provided the best platform to address all relevant issues.

The foreign minister shared a clear 10-point message to the Parliament of Afghanistan: i) we want to make it clear that no group in Afghanistan is our favorite and we treat all equally; (ii) We not only respect a united Afghanistan, its sovereignty and territorial integrity, but also desire the same; (iii) We believe that peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan is in the interest of Pakistan; (iv) There are many opportunities for bilateral trade and economic development between Pakistan and Afghanistan that should be seized; (iv) Prime Minister Imran and the PTI government have always said that no military solution to the Afghan problem is possible and for this 'we have sincerely played a conciliatory role in the Afghan peace process and facilitated the negotiations between Taliban and United States; (vi) We believe that in the event of a peace agreement between the United States and the Taliban, there is a historic and golden opportunity and the Afghan leadership should take full advantage of this opportunity, (vii) Intra-Afghan talks can be long and complicated, so there is a need for the negotiators not to lose patience and resolve, (viii) Effective intra-Afghan talks are essential to improve law and order situation in Afghanistan and reduce violent attitudes, (ix) Pakistan sincerely respects the opinion of the Afghan people, so Pakistan will respect the decisions made by the Afghan leadership in the intra-Afghan negotiations; (x) No country can seek lasting peace in Afghanistan more than Pakistan - Pakistan is determined to play its role in building and developing a peaceful Afghanistan.

Rahmani, accompanied by a high-level delegation, is on a three-day bilateral visit from 23-25 October 2020.

He will also participate in "Pakistan-Afghanistan Trade and Investment Forum 2020 - Partnership for Mutual Benefit" seminar in Islamabad on 26-27 Oct.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020

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