Zardari and Karzai agree to forge new relationship

Posted in Pakistan , Afghanistan | 07-Jan-09 | Source: (Pakistan)

Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari (L) and Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai talk at the presidential palace in Kabul January 6, 2009.

KABUL, Jan 6: Afghanistan and Pakistan have a "new relationship" and determination to defeat terrorism and extremism, President Hamid Karzai said on Tuesday after talks with President Asif Ali Zardari.

After talks with Mr Zardari, who was making his first official visit to Afghanistan since taking office in September last year, Mr Karzai said that a new era had begun."Afghanistan and Pakistan have a new relationship," Mr Karzai told a joint press conference.

"We hope that this friendship, this new relationship achieves what is desired by both nations, which means a strong fight against terrorism, terrorism is defeated and is forced out, extremism is defeated," he said.

Mr Zardari said: "We intend to work towards a better tomorrow. We want to tell the world today, together standing shoulder to shoulder, that we are together in this fight against these non-state actors who have taken nations, countries and in fact superpowers to war," he told reporters.

Foreign ministers Rangin Dadfar Spanta of Afghanistan and Shah Mehmood Qureshi of Pakistan earlier signed a declaration calling for a "new visionary chapter" in relations between the neighbours.

Ahead of Tuesday’s talks, Mr Zardari said he hoped the meeting would "contribute to enhance cooperation in the areas of security, counter-terrorism and economic development," the foreign ministry in Islamabad said.

His visit came less than a week after Army Chief of Staff General Ashfaq Kayani visited Kabul to discuss the fight against insurgents.

Pakistan last week mounted a major offensive to clear militants from an area near a key highway into Afghanistan used by trucks ferrying supplies to Nato and US-led troops helping Kabul to fight the insurgency.

But it is wary about suspected US air strikes targeting militants inside Pakistan, saying the action violates its territorial sovereignty.??There have been more than two dozen such strikes on northwest Pakistan since August.

Mr Zardari was welcomed to the presidential palace with a gun salute and guard of honour.

JOINT DECLARATION: The two countries agreed to develop a joint comprehensive strategy for combating terrorism and closely cooperate with each other as well as the international community to counter and completely eliminate the menaces of militancy, extremism and terrorism from the region.

Mr Spanta and Mr Qureshi signed the declaration in presence of President Zardari and his Afghan counterpart.

The two countries agreed to remain fully supportive for joint peace jirga process and to remain fully engaged with other frameworks of cooperation.

They agreed to cooperate for complete eradication of narcotics and drugs including their production, consumption and trafficking from the region.The declaration titled "Directions of Bilateral Cooperation", said the two countries agreed to maintain frequent exchanges of high-level visits and contacts between government departments, parliaments, armed forces and security agencies to enhance mutual understanding in all fields.

The two countries agreed to enhance connectivity through improvement in infrastructure, including rail and road links and building of transportation, communication and transit corridors, connecting the entire region.

They also agreed to collaborate in developing energy corridor in the region via Afghanistan, including building oil and gas pipelines and electricity networks.

The two sides agreed to promote bilateral trade on preferential terms towards full implementation of South Asia Free Trade Agreement and Economic Cooperation Organisation Trade Agreement.

They also agreed to encourage cultural and people-to-people contacts between academia, think-tanks, media and civil society.

The two countries agreed to cooperate at regional and international fora, including the United Nations, Organisation of Islamic Conference, Economic Cooperation Organisation and South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.??They also agreed to develop bilateral projects for exploitation of mineral resources and to promote bilateral and regional cooperation in all fields especially in economy, trade, transit, investment, agriculture, education and technology.