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Second Pak-Afghan bilateral forum meeting held in Kabul

sohail mahmood

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood visited Kabul leading the Pakistan delegation comprising senior officers for the second review meeting of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS).

The Afghan side was led by Deputy Foreign Minister Mirwais Nab. During the meeting, the entire spectrum of bilateral relations was reviewed. The foreign secretary underlined that the fraternal ties were reinforced by a shared desire for regional peace, stability and prosperity.

The relationship was further strengthened through regular exchanges at the highest level and through myriad bilateral mechanisms, particularly APAPPS, he said.

Despite the challenges posed by Covid-19, the foreign secretary said Pakistan had opened the border crossings with Afghanistan to facilitate trade and pedestrian movement.  He reiterated Pakistan’s abiding commitment to a peaceful, stable, united, sovereign and prosperous Afghanistan.

He reaffirmed Pakistan’s steadfast support for the Afghan peace process and reiterated that there was no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan.

“An inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement was the only way forward. Pakistan looked forward to the earliest commencement of Intra-Afghan Negotiations” he said.

“The Afghan stakeholders must seize this historic opportunity, work together constructively, and secure an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led negotiated solution for durable peace and stability in their country and the region,” he added.

Foreign Secretary cautioned against the role of ‘spoilers’ and stressed that perseverance and unflinching commitment would be indispensable for a successful outcome.

The five Working Groups held in-depth discussions on key tracks of the relationship. In the Politico-Diplomatic Working Group, the Pakistani side focused on strengthening bilateral relations through regular high-level exchanges, increased institutional engagement, utilise existing mechanisms including APTECA and JEC, enhanced economic partnership and intensified people-to-people exchanges.

Under the Economic Working Group, Pakistan reaffirmed commitment to expand bilateral trade liberalisation measures and expressed readiness to commence negotiations on a new Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA).

The Refugee Working Group discussed all aspects pertaining to the Afghan refugees in Pakistan. The Pakistani side reiterated that the peace and reconciliation process offered a unique opportunity to address the return of Afghan refugees to their homeland with dignity and honour and a time-bound roadmap was important in this regard.

Under the Military-to-Military and Intelligence Cooperation Working Groups, detailed discussions were held on all relevant matters emphasising on regular exchanges and closer collaboration. The two sides reiterated commitment to optimally utilise APAPPS to deliberate on all key issues, effectively address common challenges, and pursue new opportunities.

It was agreed to enhance the frequency of APPAPS review meetings and increase mutual interaction among the various Working Groups. It was decided that the next review meeting will be held in Pakistan.

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