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Pakistan, Afghanistan agree on building contacts in inconclusive talks

June 21, 2016

Meeting between Sartaj and Afghan foreign minister to be held on SCO sidelines; Pakistan asserts effective border management to do away with infiltration of terrorists

ISLAMABAD: Delegation-level talks between Afghanistan and Pakistan at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday remained inconclusive but an agreement was reached to continue building contacts for border management.

It also helped pave the way for a senior-level meeting between Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz and his counterpart Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani on the sidelines of the forthcoming SCO Summit in Tashkent on June 23-24.

Earlier, Kabul was reluctant to meet at the ministerial level and had instead sent its junior minister to Islamabad. On Monday it said in a statement, “Afghanistan strongly protested against Pakistan’s ongoing unprovoked artillery shelling of Afghan villages…but both sides agreed to establish an effective mechanism for consultation and coordination of issues of mutual concern and interest.”

The two ministers, when meeting in Tashkent, are expected to address the situation arising from the recent events at the Torkham border crossing and to find a way forward on efforts for border management, said the spokesman at the Foreign Office in a statement.

Initially, Sartaj Aziz had telephoned Afghan National Security Adviser Hanif Atmar to visit Pakistan to “address the situation arising from recent events at the Torkham border crossing and to find a way forward on efforts for border management.”

The past week had seen heavy and unprecedented exchange of fire across the Pak-Afghan border which took lives on both sides besides seriously injuring others, as a result of Pakistan’s construction of a border gate at Torkham inside its territory to deny passage to militants and terrorists.

Pakistan blamed “misguided” elements who did not want peace between the two neighbours being responsible for influencing the Afghans for escalating the situation.

Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai headed the Afghan delegation which also included Dr Omar Zakhiwal, Special Envoy of the President and Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan.

Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry led Pakistan’s side where discussions pertaining to the Torkham border and other matters related to border management were held.

“During the discussions, it was emphasised that there was a need for creating a suitable mechanism for consultation on border management issues. Effective border management is vital for promoting peace, countering terrorism and strengthening relations between the two countries,” the spokesman commented.

While both sides in their statements acknowledged that Monday’s deliberations were held in a “cordial”, “amicable” and “friendly” atmosphere, the Afghan Foreign Ministry added that, “Mr Karzai raised with Foreign Secretary Chaudhary the various violations by Pakistan, including their building of installations and check posts inside the Afghan territory in Angor Ada, Ghulam Khan, and Khoja Kheder Mountain. Moreover, he strongly protested against Pakistan’s ongoing unprovoked artillery shelling of Afghan villages.”

Pakistan has consistently maintained that it would complete the gate at Torkham and also construct others at other border crossings. It says that both sides have “decided to work in the spirit of good neighbourly relations and friendly cooperation between the two countries.”

The two sides also agreed that the ideas generated in today’s deliberations will be shared with the leadership and further discussed and refined during a meeting between the Adviser and the Afghan foreign minister on the sidelines of the forthcoming SCO Summit in Tashkent.

Afghan Deputy Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai also paid a courtesy call on Sartaj Aziz. Earlier, Sartaj Aziz had told the media that Afghanistan wanted Pakistan to stop the construction of the Torkham gate. “However, we are building the gate on our side of the border, and we do not need anyone’s permission,” he said.

Karzai’s office later included in its statement, “To prevent such incidents from happening again, both sides agreed to establish an effective mechanism for consultation and coordination of issues of mutual concern and interest.”

In the meeting, respect for the mutual sovereignty and commitment to the principles of non-interference, non-aggression, and good neighbourly relations were stressed.

They acknowledged that the stability, security, and prosperity of Afghanistan depended on those of Pakistan and vice versa.

Moreover, the Afghan side noted that in the fight against terrorism no distinction be made between good and bad terrorists, and that Afghanistan and Pakistan should cooperate to defeat terrorism and end regional support for extremism.

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