Pakistan, Afghan officials urge stakeholders to seize ‘historic opportunity’ for peace

APAPPS meeting in Kabul reviews bilateral relations, peace process


Our Correspondent August 31, 2020
PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD:

Senior officials from Pakistan and Afghanistan on Monday reviewed bilateral ties as well as Afghan peace efforts, as Islamabad urged all stakeholders to seize “historic opportunity” to put an end to the war in the Afghanistan.

During the second review meeting of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS), the Pakistani delegation led by Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood, reiterated Islamabad’s abiding commitment to a “peaceful, stable, united, sovereign and prosperous” Afghanistan.

The Foreign Office said in a statement that Foreign Secretary Mahmood visited Kabul at the invitation of the Afghan government, leading the delegation, comprising senior officers, for the APAPPS review meeting. The Afghan side at the talks was led by Deputy Foreign Minister Mirwais Nab.

“During the meeting, the entire spectrum of bilateral relations was reviewed. Highlighting the importance of Pakistan-Afghanistan relations, the foreign secretary underlined that these historic and fraternal ties were reinforced by a shared desire for regional peace, stability and prosperity,” it read.

Secretary Mahmood noted that the bilateral relationship was further strengthened through regular exchanges at the highest level and through a myriad of bilateral mechanisms, particularly the APAPPS, the statement added.

Despite the challenges posed by Covid-19, the foreign secretary told the Afghan side, Pakistan had opened the border crossings with Afghanistan to facilitate bilateral and transit trade as well as pedestrian movement.

Secretary Mahmood reiterated “Pakistan’s abiding commitment to a peaceful, stable, united, sovereign and prosperous Afghanistan” and reaffirmed Pakistan’s steadfast support for the Afghan peace process and reiterated that “there was no military solution to the conflict” in Afghanistan, the statement read.

The head of the Pakistani delegation stressed that an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement was the only way forward and said that Pakistan looked forward to the earliest commencement of Intra-Afghan negotiations.

“The Afghan stakeholders must seize this historic opportunity, work together constructively, and secure an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led negotiated solution for durable peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region,” the statement quoted Secretary Mahmood as saying in the meeting.

Noting that the coming phase would be challenging, the foreign secretary cautioned against the role of “spoilers” and stressed that perseverance and unflinching commitment would be indispensable for a successful outcome.

Working groups

The APAPPS was established in 2018 to provide a comprehensive and structured framework for institutional engagement in diverse areas of bilateral cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The first review meeting was held in Islamabad on 10 June 2019.

The APAPPS framework comprises five working groups focused on politico-diplomatic, military-to-military cooperation, intelligence cooperation, economic cooperation, and refugee issues. As part of the review, the working groups also held in-depth discussions on key tracks of the relationship on Monday.

In the Politico-Diplomatic Working Group, the talks focused on strengthening bilateral ties through the high-level exchanges, increased institutional engagement, utilisation of existing mechanisms, including APTECA and JEC, enhanced economic partnership, and intensified people-to-people exchanges.

Under the Economic Working Group, Pakistan reaffirmed its commitment to expand bilateral trade through facilitation and liberalisation measures and expressed its readiness to commence negotiations on a new Afghanistan-Pakistan transit trade agreement (APTTA).

In the Refugee Working Group discussion the Pakistan side reiterated that the peace and reconciliation process offered a unique opportunity for the return of Afghan refugees to their homeland. in this regard, the delegation underscored the importance of a “time-bound” and “well-resourced roadmap”.

Under the military-to-military and intelligence cooperation working groups, the Foreign Office statement said, the two sides held detailed discussions on all relevant matters, with emphasis on regular exchanges and closer collaboration.

The two sides reiterated their commitment to optimally utilise the APAPPS to deliberate on all key issues, address common challenges, and pursue new opportunities. It was agreed to enhance the frequency of APPAPS meetings and increase mutual interaction among the various working groups.

The meeting decided that the next (third) review meeting would be held in Pakistan and that the dates for the meeting would be worked out through diplomatic channels, the statement added.

Prior to the meeting, the foreign secretary called on Acting Foreign Minister Hanif Atmar and discussed with him the ways and means to enhance Pakistan-Afghanistan bilateral cooperation and strengthen endeavours in support of the Afghan peace process.

The foreign secretary also conveyed to the Afghan minister greetings from the leadership and the people of Pakistan. He also conveyed sympathies and condolences over the loss of lives due to Covid-19 and the human and material losses caused by heavy rains and flash floods in Parwan province.

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