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Pakistan, China and Afghanistan, while reiterating their support for a politically negotiated settlement of Afghan conflict, have desired an early commencement of direct negotiations between Afghan government and the Taliban and a full cessation of violence in the war-torn country.

Foreign Minister of Pakistan Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Foreign Minister of Afghanistan Salahuddin Rabbani, and State Councilor and Foreign Minister of China Wang Yi held the 3rd session of China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Foreign Ministers' Dialogue on Saturday. "The three sides noted with satisfaction the progress made under the trilateral cooperation since the 2nd Dialogue held in Kabul, on December 18, 2018. The three foreign ministers reiterated their resolve to further deepen various strands of trilateral cooperation," according to the joint statement issued at the conclusion of the third round of the dialogue.

It stated that the three sides agreed to continue their joint efforts for building political mutual trust and supporting reconciliation, regional peace and stability, development cooperation and connectivity, security cooperation and counter-terrorism as key areas of the trilateral cooperation. "The three sides condemned the recent terrorist attacks in Kabul, Konduz, Baghlan and Farah, which have taken many innocent civilian lives including women and children," the joint statement said.

China, Afghanistan and Pakistan, while closely following recent developments in the regional situation, reiterated their support for a politically negotiated settlement of the conflict in Afghanistan, it stated, adding that in this regard, they took note of the talks between the US and the Taliban. "They expressed hope that intra-Afghan negotiations including direct negotiations between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban would begin soon and lead to full cessation of violence bringing lasting peace for the people of Afghanistan. They particularly underlined the need for an inclusive, Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process leading to a comprehensive agreement for durable peace and stability in Afghanistan," it added.

Based on respect for the will of the Afghan people, while appreciating the efforts made by Afghanistan, China and Pakistan expressed their continued support for Afghanistan's peace and reconciliation process as well as for the efforts towards reconstruction and economic development in the country.

"The three sides reaffirmed their commitment to further strengthening their relations, exploring new ways of deepening cooperation, including advancing connectivity under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA) and other regional economic initiatives," it added.

It further stated that the three sides agreed to explore 'China-Afghanistan-Pakistan plus' cooperation, as well as working towards promoting trade and connectivity projects between Afghanistan and Pakistan, such as Kabul-Peshawar motorway.

The three sides welcomed the progress made on the implementation of projects agreed under the China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Practical Cooperation Dialogue (CAPPCD). They agreed to continue cooperation in the fields of economic development, capacity building, improving livelihood and people-to-people exchanges, it added.

It also stated that China expressed its readiness to support construction of refrigeration storages, clinic centers, drinking water supply schemes and immigration reception centers at crossing points between Afghanistan and Pakistan to facilitate the movement of people and trade activities among the two countries.

On terrorism, the joint statement noted that China, Afghanistan and Pakistan reiterated their strong resolve to fight terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and without any distinction. They reaffirmed commitment of not letting any terrorist organization, element or individual use their soils against any country, it added.

It further stated that the three sides also decided to work towards effectively implementing the trilateral MoU on Cooperation in Counterterrorism, signed at the 2nd round of Trilateral Foreign Ministers' Dialogue held in Kabul, and agreed on a list of initial projects of enhancing counterterrorism cooperation in this regard.

"They recognized the need to continue their joint fight against ETIM [East Turkestan Islamic Movement] and its supporters and facilitators. The three sides committed to promoting measures to counter terrorists' logistical capabilities including terror-financing, recruitment and training," it asserted.

The three sides agreed to take advantage of the trilateral Vice-Ministerial Strategic Dialogue, the Vice-Ministerial Consultation on Counter-Terrorism and Security, and the Director-General Level Practical Cooperation Dialogue to implement the consensus of the 3rd Foreign Ministers' Dialogue.

The three sides welcomed the plans to hold a trilateral friendly cricket tournament among junior cricket teams of the three countries in Beijing in October 2019. They also agreed to arrange a capacity building workshop of young diplomats from the three countries under the Junior Diplomats Exchange Program to be held in Pakistan in October 2019.

The three foreign ministers agreed to organize an Archaeologists' Exchange Program, explore cooperation among the Red Crescent Societies of the three countries, besides regularly undertaking exchange projects in the areas of media, think tanks, sports, joint training etc.

The foreign ministers of China and Afghanistan thanked Pakistan for the successful organization of the 3rd round of China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Foreign Ministers' Dialogue and for its warm hospitality. The three countries decided to hold the next round of Trilateral Foreign Ministers' Dialogue in Beijing in 2020, it added.

Speaking at a joint news conference after the dialogue, the Chinese foreign minister said that the US and Taliban are making 'important progress' in the negotiation and they have reached a 'principled' consensus on a peace deal.

He noted that there are still all kinds of uncertainties, but the people of Afghanistan are expecting restoration of peace.

He also called upon the US and the Taliban to continue the negotiation and implement the agreements after these are signed. In particular, he urged the two sides to make a good commitment regarding the troops' drawdown and counterterrorism efforts so that peace could be restored in the war-torn country.

He said that the future of Afghanistan should be determined by the people of Afghanistan, adding, "we will continue our commitment to the principle of Afghan owned and Afghan led peace process being the only way to peace and reconciliation".

The Chinese Foreign Minister also called on all the factions in Afghanistan including the Taliban to start intra-Afghan negotiations and reach a future political arrangement that is acceptable to all the parties and ensure opening of the doors for reconciliation.

He said that it should have broad representation and be inclusive so that all the parties participate in the political process of the country. "If that is achieved, the future [generation] of Afghanistan will enjoy a united political foundation," he said, adding that it is also important to make sure that Afghanistan is no more a sanctuary of terrorist organisations.

Foreign Minister Qureshi, while reiterating Pakistan's continued commitment to Afghan-led and Afghan owned reconciliation process, hoped that the intra-Afghan dialogue would commence soon.

He said that strengthening regional cooperation will help all the parties and pave the way for regional stability and prosperity.

To a question, Qureshi said that there is a growing realization in Pakistan and Afghanistan to build on the growing momentum in the bilateral ties and also reiterated an invitation to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to jointly inaugurate the 24-hour opening of the Torkham border.

He also stated that Pakistan has undertaken various actions including the border management measures that the country's soil is not used against Afghanistan or any other country. He said that they are hopeful for the Afghan peace process, adding that Pakistan and Afghanistan need each other for prosperity in both the counties.

Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani acknowledged Pakistan's efforts in the ongoing peace talks between the US and Afghan Taliban, adding that due to Islamabad's intervention violence in the country has dropped significantly.

However, he noted that recent surge in violence in Afghanistan, saying that Taliban are still targeting innocent Afghans. "The Taliban have yet to show full commitment to peace in Afghanistan by continuing terror attacks against innocent Afghans", he added.

On Security cooperation, he said that there is a need for 'sincere' cooperation and actions against all terror groups without any distinction. "It will be very positive cooperation from Pakistan if we see a reduction in violence in Afghanistan," the Afghan foreign minister further stated.

He also emphasized that the future of Afghanistan should be decided by the Afghan people in intra-Afghan dialogue.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019

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