Pak, Afghan to hold counter terror talks

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No threat to ECO summit: Sartaj

Observer Report

Islamabad

Adviser to PM on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz disclosed Saturday that Pakistan is engaged in negotiations with Afghanistan on developing a joint “mechanism” to address mutual cross-border terrorism concerns, and both sides could formalize a deal next week.
Sartaj Aziz told reporters here that he will hold further talks on the subject when he meets with Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani on the sidelines of a regional summit opening in Islamabad on Sunday.
He said that Rabbani has confirmed his participation in the 10-nation Economic Cooperation Organization, or ECO, along with other senior Afghan officials.
Aziz went on to say that both sides see terrorism as a “common enemy” and have agreed that there is a need for cooperation.
“For this purpose, we are holding discussions on developing a mechanism at various levels such as ground level, higher military level, intelligence level, political level, foreign office level. We [Pakistan] have already sent them our proposals and if they [Afghanistan] agree to it, I am hopeful it [the agreement] will be formalized during the [ECO] summit,” the adviser said.
Bilateral relations have plunged to new lows in recent months with Islamabad and Kabul accusing each other of harboring anti-state militant groups and sponsoring terrorist attacks on their respective soils.
Our Correspondent Zahid Chaudhary adds: Sartaj Aziz, briefing media about ECO Summi, assured there is no threat to the 13th Economic Cooperation Org anization Summit to be held in Islamabad on Wednesday.
He said most of the member states except Afghanistan have already confirmed their participation in the Summit.
Sartaj Aziz said the forum will deliberate and decide on ways and means to augment cooperation in the areas of connectivity, trade, energy, tourism, investment, industry, economic growth, productivity, social self-aware and environment.
He said initiatives for development of education and scientific linkages, cultural and people to people contacts within the ECO will also be deliberated upon during the Summit.
To a question, he hinted that Pak-Afghan border will be reopened in a day or two.
Most of the member states have already confirmed participation at Heads of State or Heads of Government level. To a query, he said seven out of ten member states have confirmed the partition at highest level whereas Afghanistan and Azerbaijan have not yet confirmed.
High level participation of the member states will greatly enhance the vitality and substance of the Summit, he said.
ECO observers and special guests have also been invited to attend the Summit. Replying to a question, he said elaborate and comprehensive security arrangements have been made for the Summit and asserted that it would send a very positive message to the world.
To another question about India’s bid to isolate Pakistan in the comity of the nations, Sartaj said that no such effort has so far borne any fruit. “Our importance and strategic role in Muslim countries is still vitally significant and we continue to participate in the proceedings of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation. We were away from the SAARC summit only.” He informed that the Secretary General of SAARC (Pakistan’s Foreign Office Official) is expected to join the SAARC Secretariat next month.
He said the theme of ECO Summit is “Connectivity for Regional Prosperity” and the Summit will deliberate and decide on ways and means to augment cooperation in the areas of connectivity, trade, energy, tourism, investment, industry, economic growth, productivity, social welfare and environment.
Initiatives for furtherance of education and scientific linkages, cultural and people-to-people contacts within the ECO would also be deliberated upon during the Summit, he added.
Advisor to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz said the China Pakistan Economic Corridor was an outstanding example of the Summit’s theme of Connectivity.
It will augment the existing and planned transit and energy corridors in ECO region for greater progress and prosperity forour peoples, he added.
The Islamabad Declaration, he said would focus on the Summit theme of Connectivity as a dynamic concept that encompasses multiple dimensions including transit transport such as rail, road, ports and shipping and cyber linkages.
Responding to a question about the main objective of Regional Cooperation for Development among Pakistan, Iran and Turkey that was later converted into ECO and expanded to current 10 member states, he said the connectivity remained the focal point over 5 decades but there was the issue of infrastructure.
After completion of CPEC and linkage of other corridors in the region to the CPEC, he said the objectives regarding bilateral trade, development and prosperity would start bearing fruits. Economic Cooperation Organization was established in 1985 by Iran, Turkey and Pakistan. It succeeded Regional Cooperation for Development, which was founded in 1964 to promote cooperation among the three Member States.
Talking about the background, Sartaj said the ECO was expanded to include seven new Members, including Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Afghanistan in
1992. The Treaty of Izmir, signed in 1977 and subsequently amended in 1996, is the legal foundation of the Organization, he added. Talking about ECO aims, he said these included promoting sustainable economic development of Member States through trade and economic cooperation as well as mutual assistance in social, cultural, technical and scientific fields.

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