19
Sun, May

Pakistan backs Afghanistan talks with Taliban

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president-Ghani-with-Nawaz-SharifPakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Saturday pledged his support to Afghan president Ashraf Ghani over his attempt to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.


"I reaffirmed that a peaceful, stable, united and prosperous Afghanistan is in Pakistan's vital national interest,” Nawaz Sharif said in Islamabad in a joint press conference with the Afghan president, who arrived there on Friday on a two-day state visit.
The Pakistani prime minister said he backed President Ghani's initiative seeking revival of talks with the insurgents, but added that the process must be fully Afghan-led and Afghan-owned.  Sharif emphasised that Pakistan's foremost priority is building a "peaceful neighbourhood".
Ashraf Ghani called for a joint effort to "curb extremism in both countries," saying "any instability in Pakistan affects us and any instability in Afghanistan affects you".
In their landmark meeting, the two leaders also pledged to begin a new era of economic co-operation, with Ghani saying three days of talks had ended 13 years of testy relations.
After the meetings between Ghani and Sharif, the two country's finance ministers signed a deal aimed at more than doubling trade between the two countries to $5bn by 2017, as well as simplifying customs protocols.
Ghani and Sharif said that collaboration on economic and energy issues would form the basis of better security in the troubled region as US-led NATO combat troops leave Afghanistan after more than a decade of fighting the Taliban.
"What we have agreed on is a shared vision where Pakistan and Afghanistan would serve as the heart of Asia to ensure that economic integration in Asia becomes a reality," Ghani said.
The two sides plan to work together on the CASA-1000 electricity line and the ambitious $7.6bn Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistani-India (TAPI) gas pipeline.
President Ghani also said partnership with Pakistan was an important pillar of Afghanistan’s foreign policy while Sharif called his country as a second home for the Afghan leader.
Ghani said adoption of practical steps would improve bilateral relations of the two countries. He added the Central Asia-South Asia Regional Energy and Trade (CASA) and Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) projects would help link the two countries.
During his meetings, Ghani has raised the issue of improved access to Pakistan’s markets for Afghan businessmen. His delegation of 145 includes businessmen as well as senior Afghan security officials.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the US welcomed the prospect of improved cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and described Ghani’s trip as a good opportunity for that.