KABUL: Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif on Saturday urged all the stakeholders in Afghanistan to join hands for supporting the efforts aimed at establishing sustainable peace in the country.
“It is imperative to reverse the destructive cycle of conflict. This is the time to take decisive steps for moving forward the dialogue process and bringing it to a successful conclusion,” he said addressing a joint news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
The Prime Minister was on his first official visit to Afghanistan at the invitation of President Karzai. He held a one-to-one meeting with President Karzai followed by delegation level talks.
Nawaz Sharif said Pakistan desired a friendly and good-neighbourly relationship with Afghanistan based on the principles of mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity.
“A peaceful, stable and united Afghanistan is in Pakistan’s vital interest,” he said and added Pakistan’s vision of a peaceful and prosperous neighbourhood could only be realized by having peace and stability in Afghanistan and by forging cooperative ties between the two countries.
“We stand at the threshold of a consequential year in Afghanistan’s history. In 2014, the Afghan people would take major steps towards becoming the masters of their own destiny. We welcome this milestone and wish our Afghan brothers well,” the Prime Minister said.
He said the opportunities presented by 2014 would be accompanied by formidable challenges as well so it was in everyone’s interest to ensure that the security and political transitions in Afghanistan were completed peacefully.
He said key to sustainable peace in Afghanistan, 2014 and beyond, was an inclusive political settlement and that was why Pakistan had steadfastly supported an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process.
The Prime Minister said he had assured President Karzai of Pakistan’s continuous facilitation for the Afghan peace process.
He hoped that others in the region would also work to reinforce efforts for stabilization of Afghanistan. He urged the international community that it must stay engaged to help Afghanistan’s reconstruction and economic development.
Emphasizing strong trade and economic partnership, he said in the meeting they also reviewed the progress being made in advancing that goal and in developing a comprehensive, multi-dimensional relationship.
He lauded the deepening parliamentary dialogue and people-to- people contact and said this year, another batch of 600 would join thousands of other Afghan students to pursue higher studies in Pakistan.
He said Pakistan had enhanced its commitment of assistance for reconstruction and socio-economic development in Afghanistan from $ 385 million to $ 500 million. The additional $ 115 million would be utilized to complete ongoing projects and initiate new ones, he added.
He said Pakistan had also extended the stay of registered Afghan refugees up to December 2015.
Nawaz Sharif said both the sides agreed to accelerate the realization of trans-regional projects, including CASA-1000 and TAPI gas pipeline.
When questioned, he confirmed that Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar had been released.
An agreement had been reached with the Afghan President for a mechanism to allow members of the Afghan Peace Council to continue talks with Mullah Baradar, he added.
President Karzai said he desired to see Pakistan and Afghanistan free of terrorism and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit would help strengthen the bilateral ties.
He said Afghanistan wanted strong economic ties with Pakistan and added they discussed the peace process and how Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States could bring peace in the region.
He also mentioned the recent visit of head of the Afghan Peace Council Salahuddin Rabbani to Pakista