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Posted on Nov 30, 11:05PM | IANS
Weeks after Pakistan freed 13 Afghan Taliban detainees to push peace process, Pakistan and Afghanistan agreed Friday on the release of more Taliban prisoners, facilitating contacts and urging the Taliban to renounce ties to Al Qaeda.
A joint statement issued at the conclusion of a day-long visit of Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul to Pakistan said the two sides emphasized the importance of an intra-Afghan inclusive dialogue and consequent political settlement for durable peace in Afghanistan, reported Xinhua citing local media.
Pakistan reaffirmed that it fully supports and stands by the Afghan nation as they determine their own future, the joint statement said.
The two sides emphasized the need to enhance cooperation in the fields of security, development, transit, trade, economic and investment linkages, infrastructure and energy connectivity and people to people contacts, it added. They reaffirmed their commitment to jointly overcome the common challenges of terrorism and extremism.
The two sides discussed the issue of cross border incursions and shelling and agreed to have an institutionalized mechanism to address this issue. In this regard, they also agreed to have closer coordination between the two countries.
Both sides agreed to operationalize a Joint Commission to address the prisoners issue as announced during the visit of President Hamid Karzai to Islamabad in June 2011.
While expressing satisfaction with the current volume of annual bilateral trade, the two countries agreed to take facilitative steps to further enhance bilateral trade and achieve the target of USD 5 billion dollars annual trade by 2015.
Recognizing the need of jointly pursuing trade and transit agreements with Central Asian states, the two sides decided that as the first step, a trilateral transit and trade agreement will be negotiated with Tajikistan, which would be extended to other countries as appropriate and mutually determined.
The two sides would also enter into a bilateral Visa Abolition Agreement for holders of diplomatic passports to facilitate visa free travel for the diplomats of the two countries.
Realizing that a Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) will further deepen the bilateral relations between the two countries, both sides decided to initiate negotiations for the signing of an SPA. Pakistan also shared a draft of the SPA with the Afghan delegation.
The Afghan foreign minister called on Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and discussed with him issues of mutual interests, the PM's office said.
The prime minister said that both Afghanistan and Pakistan have a common challenge in terrorism and drug menace."Therefore, both countries need to work closely to confront these challenges," he said.