Heart of Asia meet starts in Islamabad 

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

The Pakistan 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 news agency reported.

Karzai called for a united and collective approach to counter the menace of terrorism and violent extremism at the meeting.

“The Heart of Asia conference is taking place at a critical juncture when the region is confronted by many challenges including terrorism,” the Afghan deputy foreign minister said at the opening session.

He said the activities of terror outfits including the Islamic State (IS) has reminded the related parties of the gravity of the problem and demanded a collective approach to tackle this international phenomenon.

“Afghanistan is determined to continue fight against terrorism in all its forms and manifestations,” he said, adding that a peaceful and stable Afghanistan is in the best interest of the region.

Aziz said that Pakistan desires durable peace in Afghanistan as instability there is not in the interest of Pakistan.

“Pakistan will continue to support all endeavors aiming at strengthening peace and security in Afghanistan,” Aziz said.

He said that since the launching of Heart of Asia conference in 2011, the forum has made good progress towards realisation of its core objective of promoting durable peace and stability in Afghanistan.

He said the key achievements include political consultation involving Afghanistan and its neighbours and the regional countries with a view to promoting mutual trust in the areas of security and economic interaction.

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani will jointly inaugurate the Fifth Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process Ministerial Conference in Islamabad on Wednesday.

The theme of the Conference is “Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process: Enhanced Cooperation for Countering Security Threats and Promoting Connectivity in the Heart of Asia Region”.

Foreign Ministers of ten countries including India, China, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Iran have confirmed participation.

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

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

The Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process was established 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 Fifth Ministerial Conference is expected to adopt a forward looking Islamabad Declaration entitled “Enhanced Cooperation for Countering Security Threats and Promoting Connectivity in the Heart of Asia Region”.

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