Chaudhry Ahsan Premee
Associated Press Service
APS The news agency,Islamabad,Pakistan
ISLAMABAD:Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani said that we are pleased to have hosted the sixth meeting of the Trilateral Core Group comprising Afghanistan, the United States and Pakistan in Islamabad today.
Deputy Foreign Minister Jawed Luddin and US Special Representative Ambassador Marc Grossman and I had very fruitful and productive discussions.
We agreed that Afghanistan and the region as whole were passing through a defining moment as the country has entered the transition phase.
Together we reviewed developments with regard to the promotion of the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned inclusive peace and reconciliation process. We also discussed the next possible steps in this process.
On behalf of the Government of Pakistan, I reiterated our full support to the efforts of the Afghan Government to achieve peace and stability in the country.
Stability and Peace in Afghanistan is a core national objective for Pakistan.
Brother Luddin and Ambassador Grossman agreed with me that we share the same strategic objectives in Afghanistan and the broader region.
In our view, it is essential that we work together towards our common goals on the basis of partnership, mutual trust and mutual respect as well as in a manner that is fully transparent.
I expressed our support for other regional and international processes in support of peace, stability and security in Afghanistan.
We also discussed issues such as return of refugees, improved border management and illicit drug-trafficking.
With Deputy Minister Luddin and Ambassador Grossman, I exchanged views on several economic initiatives and development projects currently under consideration at the bilateral and regional levels.
I take this opportunity to thank Deputy Minister Luddin and Ambassador Grossman for their valuable contributions to our very fruitful discussions today. I would now invite my very dear friend and brother, the Deputy Foreign Minister Mr. Jawed Luddin, for his remarks.
While Deputy Foreign Minister Jawed Luddin said that thank you very much my friend and brother, Jalil Abbas Jilani, I am grateful to you for hosting very graciously 6th Meeting of the Trilateral Core Group today and for your very warm hospitality that you have extended to us, myself and my delegation. It is indeed a great pleasure for me to be back in Islamabad. In fact last year, I had been visiting Islamabad almost every month and held meetings with your predecessor Mr. Salman Bashir. So being back after a few months is a very positive experience for me. Today, as the Foreign Secretary has explained, we had the 6th Meeting of the Trilateral Core Group. I was also very pleased to see my other good friend, Ambassador Marc Grossman. We have worked on this very crucial process of this trilateral cooperation between our three countries. I really appreciate this opportunity to take this discussion a step further today as the Foreign Secretary has mentioned, we had a very comprehensive agenda amongst us. This is a reflection of a very broad relationship and cooperation that exists between our three countries. It has been very clear in the past and I was able to do it today as well with Foreign Secretary Jilani and Ambassador Grossman that the Afghanistan peace process is very urgent and most important priority for us among the challenges and opportunities which are in front of us. Our request is to utilize whatever opportunities are available and to focus on cooperation on the process of peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. We have met here in Islamabad after the very important landmark visit by Mr.in February that was a very fruitful opportunity for our two countries to focus on peace process and to agree on a number of crucial steps. We were then very pleased and encouraged to see a statement by the Hon’ble Prime Minister Mr. Yousaf Raza Gillani on 24 February in support of Afghanistan peace process and stating in very clear terms, Pakistan’s support for Afghanistan peace process. We are grateful once again for Pakistan’s support and we recognize that there are very important steps ahead of us that have to be made to make the peace process successful. Today, we have good opportunity to discuss some of the elements related to those steps that we have from Pakistan and the United States in support of that peace process. We believe that peace in Afghanistan is an urgent need. Only two weeks ago we had terrible attacks in Kabul on 15 April which were a reminder of very serious nature of the terrorist enemy which confronts us. In order to succeed this trilateral partnership we need to confront terrorist militarily where we can, in the bases from where they come to disturb the peaceful lives of Afghan people and Pakistani people. We also need to succeed in the political process for whom, who are willing to join a peaceful and dignified life, shading away the rank of the Talibans and in that process we have crucial tasks ahead of us. We need to be able to find them, whoever are willing to talk, wherever they are, we need to encourage them and provide them as the Foreign Secretary has said, safe environment where they feel secure and confident that they can engage in peace talks without any consequences for them. I really welcome today’s discussions and the outcome that we had. I very much second the two initiatives that have taken in the form of sub group in this very core group in New York, at the level of permanent missions there, which is very important place because in New York we need to be engaged with United Nations from time to time on the question of delisting of Taliban leaders and others that can be a very useful contribution to the peace process. We also welcome the second initiative on safe passage which will mean the meetings of the expert people from all three countries to get engaged into discussions on all these important matters to take this process forward. This was on the reconciliation process. We had a very comprehensive agenda in the meeting and only if I pick one or two other points, one was on the question of the return of refugees. As an Afghan, I just can’t help to take this opportunity to express very deep gratitude to the people of Pakistan and the Government of Pakistan for hosting millions of Afghans for many decades that is a sign of friendship and solidarity that you have shown to us and we will never forget. We really want to share a vision which is good for Afghanistan and Pakistan to take steps for their orderly, dignified and safe return and we will share cooperation on this issue. Another item that I would like to comment on is economic cooperation. Our economies are integrated in this region and Pakistan is our single largest economic partner in this region and we would like to avail all the opportunities especially at the level of trilateral cooperation to encourage further trade, investment and economic cooperation. I particularly highlight the importance of energy and infrastructure as the key priorities for us. We would really like to engage Pakistan and Afghanistan into TAPI gas pipeline which is a very crucial project. We appreciate United States’ continuous support in that and other regional projects that we believe, will really transform the region once realized. With this I would like to thank my friend, Mr. Jilani, once again for chairing this meeting and hosting us very graciously. Thank you very much.WhileAmbassador Marc Grossman said that thank you both very much. I am also very delighted to be in Islamabad for this meeting among Afghanistan, Pakistan and United States Core Group. I would like to thank Mr. Foreign Secretary for the warm hospitality for us and our delegations. Thank you, Sir, for having us here. Both my colleagues have done a very good job in taking you through the agenda today so I will not do the same. But I think back to the very important Core Group Meeting that we had in Dushanbe last month. We will reaffirm our support for the Afghan peace process. Our shared goals are to open doors for Afghanistan to sit down with other Afghans to talk about the future of their country. For us, we have been very clear and we have been very consistent about what the necessary outcomes in such a peace process would include the Talibans and the other insurgents break their ties with Al Qaeda and abide by the Afghan constitution very crucially for protection of women and minority rights. Pakistan has a very important role to play for the peace in Afghanistan and for this reason we are here today. I think I am right that it was 26th of April last year that senior officials and the Prime Minister went to Kabul from Pakistan and this was where the Core Group was born and almost one year later, we have six of these meetings to show the importance of this trilateral cooperation. We welcome the cooperation and engagement from Pakistan and Afghanistan in peace process including as both my colleagues have mentioned President Karazai’s visit to Islamabad in February, Prime Minister Gilani’s statement supporting Afghan reconciliation and very importantly calling on the Talibans and other groups to participate in an intra Afghan process for national reconciliation and peace. Afghanistan’s neighbours and new neighbours are essential partners in supporting Afghans creating a stable and prosperous Afghanistan and a stable and prosperous region that was the major theme of the Istanbul conference last November. It remains central to the Istanbul process and we look forward to the successful Ministerial meeting in Kabul and we thank you for all the efforts that have been made to prepare that work. In Dushanbe last month, and here the Deputy Foreign Minister said that we need peace more than anything else. It presents revision and Afghanistan’s future to protect the gains of last ten years. Today’s meeting allowed us to advance that discussion and particularly focus on how Pakistan and the United States can support that peace for their very important region. Sir, I thank you very much for your hospitality. We look forward to take your questions.
With regard to the reopening of NATO supply routes, in your talks with the Pakistanis, what specific support you are seeking in terms of safe passage of the supply routes for the convoys?
Ambassador Grossman: We came here yesterday. We wanted to talk about the opening of ground lines of communication. We had the preliminary meeting here in the Foreign Ministry and then a working group met yesterday in the afternoon to lay out precisely that how would it go forward. We want these ground lines of communication to be opened and we want them to be opened safely and that is the important part of the agreement. And obviously we will be the part of the responsibility the government of Pakistan will undertake.
Since the inception of this Core Group, and as you have been meeting in Islamabad, there has been a trust deficit prevailing in the three member countries of the group. How will you remove or reduce this trust deficit in the backdrop of the fact that you started the Qatar process without taking into confidence your other two colleagues. How will you justify that and would you like to take into confidence your other partners on that account?
If you consider that where we are today and where we were a year ago in the terms of the trust between the three parties on the question of Afghan peace process. I say the three of us standing here together are representation of exactly that trust. I believe that on 26 April last year, the Government of Pakistan visited Kabul and this Core Group was constructed and what happened since then is that we established this relationship, we had a good discussion about the Afghan peace process. As we have said here today, President Karzai had made, what my both colleagues have stated as the landmark historic visit in February and Prime Minister Gilani made an extremely important statement about it. I think, the question of trust regarding the Afghan peace process is very high and it will continue. Second, on the current process, let me assure you that we will not embark on any effort to open the door for the Afghans about the future of Afghanistan without the permission of the Government of Afghanistan and our partners. So, that is simply not the case and my effort to open this door for Afghanistan for the future of Afghans was fully informed and with the permission of the Government of Afghanistan.
Sir, at what level and at what extent all of these three countries have been in contact with the Talibans?
Foreign Secretary Jilani: As far as the reconciliation process is concerned our position is again clear that this is and this has to be an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process. As far as Pakistan is concerned, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, in his statement, that has also been referred to by my both distinguished colleagues that we will be happy to facilitate the inner process that would bring about peace and stability in Afghanistan. As I said that the initiative lies with Afghanistan and our responsibility would be to facilitate that process in whatever possible manner we can.
Ambassador Grossman: Our position is exactly the same. The purpose of the United States in having any contact is that one purpose and one purpose only and that is to faster the conversation among Afghans about the future of Afghanistan.
Deputy Foreign Minister Luddin: Our objective in the peace process is to engage in negotiations with Talibans and with other groups and to talk to them about the future of Afghanistan and that they have faith in the current political process alongwith the people of Afghanistan and to see that they would work with us in achieving this very aspiration of the Afghan people to bring peace to this country for a very long time and that is for what we are seeking support. We basically need two things; one is those who are in contact one way or the other with us, they need to feel secure that they can do so openly, that there would not be any consequences for them and that can then produce an outcome and have a cascade effect on others to join. Secondly, we need to contact those with whom we are not in contact right now and for that we are here and we count on the commitment that has been expressed here today. We take this expression of support very very seriously that has been extended to us also in February when President Karzai visited here. That was a landmark visit. I see today’s visit as a reiteration of that. We believe United States and Pakistan’s support is very important in the whole process.