Heart of Asia meeting starts in Islamabad

Islamabad, Dec 8 (IANS) Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process meeting started here on Tuesday to finalise the agenda for a ministerial conference to be held on Wednesday.

The Pakistani prime minister’s foreign affairs adviser, Sartaj Aziz, and Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Khalil Hekmat Karzai jointly inaugurated the day-long meeting of senior officials, Xinhua reported.

Speaking at the opening session, Aziz and Karzai expressed hope that the conference will help evolve strategy against the threat of terrorism and extremism.

The two also favoured economic cooperation and regional connectivity.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani will jointly inaugurate the Fifth Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process meeting on Wednesday.

The conference aims to cement regional ties through a set of confidence building measures.

The process will expand coordination between Afghanistan and its neighbours in facing common threats including terrorism, narcotics, poverty and extremism.

Foreign ministers of 10 countries, including India, China, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Iran have confirmed participation, said the foreign ministry.

Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will on Tuesday arrive in Islamabad to attend the meeting.

Sushma Swaraj will also meet Sharif and Aziz at the sidelines of the Heart of Asia meeting.

The Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process was formed in 2011 at the initiative of Afghanistan and Turkey.

The main objective of the process is to foster efforts for regional cooperation and connectivity with a view to promoting long-term peace and stability as well as progress and development in Afghanistan and the region.

The process would underline commitments from the Heart of Asia countries and partners for sustained efforts towards promoting peace and security, economic development and connectivity in the region.

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