Close cooperative relations with Afghanistan cornerstone of Pak foreign policy: Sartaj Aziz

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ISLAMABAD, Aug 19 (APP): Advisor to the Prime Minister
on Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz on Friday said close cooperative relations with Afghanistan have always been cornerstone of Pakistan’s foreign policy.

“Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif’s vision of a
‘peaceful neighbourhood’ enshrines a comprehensive partnership with Afghanistan for promoting peace, progress and prosperity of our region,” he said.

The Advisor on Foreign Affairs expressed these views
while speaking at a reception hosted by Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal to celebrate 97th anniversary of the Independence Day of Afghanistan.

Sartaj Aziz, on behalf of the people and the Government
of Pakistan, and on his own behalf, extended heartiest
felicitations to Afghan Ambassador and the fraternal people of Afghanistan on this joyous occasion.

The Advisor said, Afghanistan is a brotherly country and
a close neighbour of Pakistan and, “We share an abiding relationship that draws strength from the rich bonds of our common faith, history, geography, culture and kinship. The people of the two countries have firmly stood with each other in thick and thin.”

“To realize this vision, we persistently endeavour for
constructive engagement with Afghanistan to further strengthen our neighbourly ties, based on mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity and adherence to the cardinal principle of non interference in each other’s internal affairs,” he added.

Advisor on Foreign Affairs said, Pakistan desires
lasting peace in Afghanistan. It is important for peace and stability in Pakistan and for realizing our leadership’s vision for promoting connectivity with Central Asia and beyond, he added.

“We firmly believe that politically negotiated settlement through an Afghan owned and Afghan led peace process is the most viable option for achieving this objective,” he added.

Sartaj Aziz said terrorism remained a common threat to
both Pakistan and Afghanistan, adding, Pakistan and its forces were valiantly fighting the menace of terrorism.

“We have rendered immense human and economic sacrifices
in this struggle in the recent years. In our views, close cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan is important for eliminating the scourge of terrorism from our region,” he added.

The Advisor said it was encouraging that their increased
cooperation had manifested in the form of a high level consultation mechanism that would deepen trust and confidence amongst the two countries.

“It entails an opportunity to collaborate in dealing
with our multiple security and political challenges and pave way for forging constructive ties in many areas,” he added.
Sartaj Aziz said consistent with the vision of its
leadership, Pakistan was committed to the pursuit of comprehensive bilateral engagement in various fields such as in trade, investment, security, counter terrorism, border management, energy transmission, infrastructure connectivity, Afghanistan’s reconstruction and rehabilitation, parliamentary exchanges and cultural, educational and sports links.

He said Pakistan was undertaking a number of
reconstruction and development projects in Afghanistan geared to stimulate socio economic development.

Under the $500 million assistance package, the
Government of Pakistan had built roads, schools, universities
and hospitals in various parts of Afghanistan, he added.

The Advisor said the Prime Minister had consistently
reiterated his desire for forging a strong trade and economic partnership with Afghanistan to reap the benefit of our strategic locations into mutual economic dividend.

“Enhanced regional connectivity through road, rail and
energy transmission networks would enable us to effectively utilize our immense natural resources for economic development of our peoples,” he added.

Sartaj Aziz in order to promote the ideals of regional
cooperation and connectivity, Pakistan will be hosting the SAARC Summit in Islamabad in November this year. “We look forward to the participation of President Ashraf Ghani in this important regional summit,” he added.

The Advisor on Foreign Affairs on this occasion also
reiterate the country’s commitment for a close, cooperative relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan that serves the best interests of the two nations and helps advance the cause of peace, progress and development in the region.
“I conclude by thanking Ambassador Zakhilwal again, and
praying for continued progress and prosperity of the brotherly people of Afghanistan,” he added.