ANKARA - Pakistan, Turkey and Afghanistan on Thursday reaffirmed their resolve to continue collective efforts and enhanced cooperation to ensure sustainable peace and security in the region.
Addressing a joint press conference here after the 8th trilateral summit hosted by Turkish President Abdullah Gul, the leaders of the three countries expressed their satisfaction over the outcome of the summit held in an environment of fraternity. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reaffirmed Pakistan’s strong and sincere commitment to peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process.
“Afghanistan today is at a defining moment in its history. This is a time for all Afghans to come together, make peace and rebuild their country,” said the prime minister.
He hoped the Afghan people would counter all the challenges with resilience and perseverance and Pakistan would continue to facilitate the peace process for a peaceful Afghanistan. “Together we are working to build a new chapter in Pakistan-Afghanistan relations,” he commented and deeply appreciated Turkey’s support for building sustainable peace in the heart of Asia. This was not only the thematic focus of this summit, but indeed the crux of their collective efforts, he added.
The prime minister said his government would continue its sincere efforts to promote good neighbourly ties with Afghanistan. “It is also clear that such common challenges are best resolved through common endeavours at the regional and international levels. Commonality of purpose creates new opportunities,” he added. He asserted an inclusive political settlement was a key to sustainable peace in Afghanistan as well as the whole region.
Nawaz Sharif said the three leaders had extensive exchanges during the summit. The region faced formidable challenges, ranging from extremism and terrorism to socio-economic development, he added.
The joint statement to be issued after the summit will reflect the path we intend to take, he added. “We are very pleased with this outcome and would remain constructively engaged to see our Afghan brothers to succeed and thrive in the months and years ahead.”
Describing Turkey as his second home, the prime minister extended his profound thanks to the Turkish government and people for their warm welcome and gracious hospitality.
“Pakistan and Turkey are bound up with the fraternal relationship that has few parallels in inter-state relations. Our strategic partnership is growing in leaps and bounds,” the prime minister said, lauding the contributions by Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Erdogan to a robust character to the bilateral cooperation.
When asked if the issue of perceptions about the involvement of each other’s state and non-state actors in terrorism in Pakistan and Afghanistan was discussed during the summit, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said these issues were discussed in detail, but they had not yet found any outcome. He, however, added the current and historical facts needed to be addressed as Muslims.
About the presence of Mullah Fazlullah in Afghanistan, President Karzai said it was a direct consequence of ‘inaction’ and violation of the Afghan territory by Taliban and terrorists.
He, however, hoped that as the process of cooperation moved forward, the two sides would be able to tackle this issue.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said he was extremely satisfied with the talks held in Ankara. There were concerns, but Pakistan and Afghanistan were on the same page, he added.
He said the purpose of the summit was to iron out such concerns and “we have been quite successful in addressing these issues.”
Replying to a question, the prime minister appreciated the Turkish contribution to the education sector in Pakistan and said their institutions were providing excellent and quality education. “I believe these institutions are intensifying stronger bonds of friendship and cooperation between the two countries,” he added.
The Afghan president said the three leaders discussed all areas of cooperation among the three countries with special focus on security and peace building in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He said the three countries would continue to increase a trusted environment between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
President Karzai said Afghanistan had a very important year ahead in which a complete transition of powers to the Afghan security forces and withdrawal of international forces were taking place. In addition, presidential elections are also being held on April 5 this year.
He said Afghanistan was committed to the trilateral dialogue and expressed his confidence that the next Afghan president would be following the process. He hoped this process would unfold a result for both Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Turkish President Abdullah Gul said all the three countries were jointly striving to maintain peace in the region. He said the summit was aimed at carrying the existing multi-dimensional collaboration among the three countries, which took its strength from their historic and deep-rooted amity. President Karzai rejected criticism of his government's release of 65 detainees viewed by Washington as dangerous militants.
"If Afghan judicial authorities decide to release a prisoner, it is of no concern to the US," Karzai told the news conference.
"I hope the US will stop harassing Afghanistan's procedures and judicial authority. I hope the United States will now begin to respect Afghan sovereignty," said Karzai, who after over a decade in power is to step down after April elections.