ISLAMABAD - Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi yesterday underscored the need for achieving the goal of a secure and stable Afghanistan for the economic progress and prosperity of the entire region.

He made these remarks while addressing the 8th Ministerial meeting of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process held earlier today at Istanbul.

Foreign Minister Qureshi also boycotted the speech of the Indian delegate at the regional conference.  As soon as Indian Minister VK Singh opened his speech at the conference, Foreign Minister Qureshi rose in his seat and walked out of the hall.

The boycott was in protest against brutalities in Occupied Kashmir by India which has turned the disputed region into a “gigantic prison” for millions of Kashmiris, according to tweets posted by Pakistani officials from the venue.

It wasn’t the first time Qureshi registered protest at international events. In September, Qureshi had boycotted the speech of Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar at a SAARC ministerial meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

FM boycotts Indian minister’s speech at Istanbul conference

Speaking on the occasion, Foreign Minister Qureshi said that neither any nation could claim to have stronger and more historic bonds with Afghanistan nor any country was more desirous of peace, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan than Pakistan, the details released by the foreign ministry said.

He added that Pakistan continued to host over 3 million Afghan refugees for the last four decades, and had been playing a critical role for the development and reconstruction of Afghanistan, including by committing over $ 1 billion in development assistance.

He highlighted the importance of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity as an important institutional framework in strengthening bilateral relations between the two sides.

The Foreign Minister underlined that recent resumption of efforts for reaching peace and stability in Afghanistan was a positive development, and expressed Pakistan’s wish to see the peace process lead to inclusive intra-Afghan negotiations.

At the same time, he cautioned against the “spoilers” in view of their vested interests. He urged the international community to seize the opportunity for achieving lasting peace in Afghanistan by reaching a broad regional and international consensus.

The Foreign Minister also called on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the side-lines of the meeting. Reiterating the historic and fraternal relations between the two countries, Foreign Minister Qureshi conveyed the warmest and sincerest wishes for the people and the Government of Turkey on behalf of the people and the Government of Pakistan on the occasion.

Qureshi held a meeting with the Foreign Minister of Turkey, Mevlut Cavusoglu. During the meeting, the two sides expressed their desire to continue expanding their relations to new areas of mutual interest, in particular by expanding bilateral economic relations.

The Foreign Minister held a brief interaction with the Acting Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia, Alice G. Wells, on the side-lines of the meeting during which matters relating to enhancing Pakistan-Afghanistan bilateral trade were discussed.

Earlier, Turkish President Erdogan and his Afghan counterpart Ashraf Ghani inaugurated the conference. In his speech, Erdogan called on the international community to boost investments in Afghanistan during “sensitive” times the country has been going through.

“Afghanistan has been going through a sensitive period. As international community, we need to boost the investments we have been making for Afghanistan for the last 18 years,” he added.

Erdogan stressed that a significant number of the problems faced by the people in South Asia were arising from outside of their borders and said that people in this region had to struggle with the negative impacts of the developments that had “nothing to do with them”.

He also emphasised regional cooperation to tackle problems South Asia region has been facing. “I believe that the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process is also very useful and effective in providing regional support for peace,” he said.