ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has said that achieving the goal of a secure and stable Afghanistan is essential for the economic progress and prosperity of the entire region.

Addressing the 8th ministerial meeting of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process in Istanbul on Monday, the minister said neither any nation could claim to have stronger and more historic bonds with Afghanistan, nor any country was more desirous of peace, stability and prosperity there than Pakistan, a Foreign Office press release said.

He said Pakistan continued to host over three million Afghan refugees for four decades and had been playing a critical role for the development and reconstruction of Afghanistan, including by committing over $1 billion in development assistance. He highlighted the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity as an important institutional framework in strengthening bilateral relations between the two sides.

The foreign minister underlined that the recent resumption of efforts for reaching peace and stability in Afghanistan was a positive development and expressed Pakistan’s wish to see the peace process lead to inclusive intra-Afghan negotiations.

Meets Erdogan and Alice Wells on the sidelines of ministerial meeting in Istanbul

At the same time, he cautioned against the spoilers in view of their vested interests. He urged the international community to seize the opportunity for achieving lasting peace in Afghanistan by reaching a broad regional and international consensus. He called on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the meeting.

Reiterating the historic and fraternal relations between the two countries, Mr Qureshi conveyed the warmest and sincerest wishes for the people and the government of Turkey on behalf of the people and the government of Pakistan.

He also held a meeting with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu wherein the two sides expressed desire to continue expanding their relations in new areas of mutual interest, particularly by expanding bilateral economic ties.

The foreign minister also held a brief interaction with US Acting Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia Alice G Wells, on the sidelines of the meeting during which matters relating to enhancing Pakistan-Afghanistan bilateral trade were discussed.

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2019