First meeting of `Heart of Asia Istanbul Process` held

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan hosted on Monday the first of the three meetings of senior officials of the Heart of Asia Istanbul Process as a prelude to the Ministerial Conference scheduled for later this year.

The series of the senior officials meetings are being held to prepare for the Islamabad Declaration to be adopted by the ministerial conference.

The Monday`s meeting was cochaired by Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry and Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai.

Adviser to the PM on Foreign Affairs and National Security Sartaj Aziz inaugurated the meeting.

In his opening comments, Mr Azizhoped that the participating countries and supporting organisations would through `tangible decisions` add to the dynamism and depth of the process that was established by Afghanistan and Turkey in November, 2011, to provide a platform to discuss regional issues and, to face common threats, encourage security, political and economic cooperation among Afghanistan, its neighbours and regional partners through a set of six Confidence Building Measures (CBMs).

Fourteen participating countries, 16 supporting countries and 12 regional and international organisations are associated with the Heart of Asia Istanbul Process.

Mr Aziz noted that the process had gained unprecedented momentum since its inception. He said that the enthusiasm of the participating countries for implementation of the projects was a cause of hope for regional prosperity.

Underlining the important role of Afghanistan, the adviser said: `Afghanistan holds immense significance for us, not only because we share a common border or ethnic affinity, but also because together we can usher in a new era of regional connectivity and regional cooperation in line with the vision of transformation decade enunciated by President Ashraf Ghani.

The senior officials participating in the meeting, according to a Foreign Office statement, held in-depth discussions on assessment of security situation in Afghanistan and the Heart of Asia region; regional cooperation to address security challenges in the Heart of Asia Region; Afghanistan`s peace and reconciliation process and role of the region in this process as well as regional priorities for economic connectivity, including regional projects like CASA-1000, TAPI gas pipeline and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

`There was convergence of views that peace, security and stability are essential for socio-economic development and prosperity in Afghanistan and the region. Therefore, the countries and organisations recognised the need to collectively strive for the attainment of these objectives to create a win-win situation for all,` the statement said.

Published in Dawn