Zardari-Karzai-AP-670
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, center left, addresses a high-level meeting on Polio eradication at the 67th session of the General Assembly at United Nations Headquarters, Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012, in New York. — Photo by AP

NEW YORK: President Asif Ali Zardari has assured his Afghan counterpart that Pakistan supported an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process in the neighbouring country.

At a Thursday evening meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in New York, Mr Zardari said militancy, terrorism and narco-trade were common challenges and the two countries “must join hands to overcome them”.

The president also underlined the need to deal with issues like illiteracy and lack of economic opportunities as well because these were among the main causes of terrorism.

Briefing journalists about the Zardari-Karzai meeting, a senior Pakistani official, Ambassador Masood Khan, said the two leaders agreed to implement “some of the understandings reached at a trilateral meeting in New York on Wednesday”.

The trilateral meeting among senior US, Pakistani and Afghan officials reviewed various proposals for helping an Afghan-led reconciliation process.

Salahuddin Rabbani, who leads the Afghan effort for reconciliation with the Taliban, attended the trilateral meeting as well as the Zardari-Karzai summit.

The two leaders focused on “moves against terrorism and on coordina-ting their policies,” Ambassador Khan said. “They also focused on building trust as they move towards seeking a peaceful solution to the Afghan dispute.”

Another official, who participated in both meetings, said the Afghan intentions were clear, “somehow Taliban should be brought into the mainstream and they have shared some intentions and plans too”.

Mr Zardari said Pakistan was eager to extend Afghan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement to the Central Asian states for promoting trade and economic activities in the region.

He expressed the hope that, as a first step, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan would be able to sign the trilateral transit and trade agreement this year.

“The two presidents agreed upon the need to continue to work toge-ther for building trust and strategic partnership of the two countries,” a press release issued after the meeting said.

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