President reiterates support to peace process in Afghanistan

ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari Saturday said Pakistan was a staunch supporter of peace and stability in Afghanistan and would support every effort aimed at restoring sustainable and long-term peace to the war-torn country.

The President was talking to British Prime Minister David Cameron, soon after his arrival here at the Aiwan-e-Sadr.

The British Prime Minister is in Pakistan on a two-day visit, after meeting his troops at Helmand, Afghanistan and meeting President Hamid Karzai. Cameron discussed the Afghan-led peace process and the scenario in the backdrop of withdrawal of NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission from Afghanistan, by the end of 2014.

Spokesperson to the President Senator Farhatullah Babar while briefing about the meeting said two rounds of talks were held at the President House, including a delegation-level and a one-on-one meeting.

Pak-UK bilateral relations and the regional situation were discussed during the meetings with special reference to some recent developments aimed at bringing peace in the neighbouring Afghanistan.

Discussing regional situation, the President recalled the three Trilateral Summits, facilitated by the United Kingdom and appreciated its role towards promoting reconciliation in Afghanistan.

He reiterated that Pakistan considers regional peace and security vital for its own socio-economic interests and it would continue to support every effort aimed at restoring peace, stability and development in Afghanistan and in the region.

The President emphasized that Pakistan all along has maintained a constructive approach and believes that dialogue and reconciliation were the only way forward towards ensuring durable peace in Afghanistan.

The President welcomed efforts being made for finding a peaceful solution to the long drawn conflict in Afghanistan. He expressed the hope that efforts made would also take into account legitimate concerns of all the stakeholders.

Spokesperson Farhatullah Babar said the British Prime Minister at the very outset of the meeting congratulated the President for overseeing a smooth transition from a democracy to another.

He observed that the smooth transition of the government reflected a measure of maturity achieved by the country and said it augurs well for further strengthening of democratic traditions in the country.

Discussing bilateral relations, the President said Pakistan considers UK as a friend and genuine development partner. He said that it was a matter of great satisfaction that Pak-UK Enhanced Strategic Dialogue (ESD) that covers entire spectrum of bilateral relations has institutionalized the consultation process in all areas of mutual concern and interest.

The President also appreciated UK assistance to the country especially in the education sector and poverty alleviation program.

The President expressed satisfaction over the fact that the mutual trade between the two countries was following an upward trajectory. He said that sustained efforts should continue to go beyond the target of Pound Sterling 2.5 billion set under 2012 Pakistan-UK Trade and Investment Roadmap.

Calling for expanding the scope of UK Foreign Direct Investment in the fields of energy, infrastructure development, agriculture, agro-based industry and mining, the President said Pakistan looks forwards to British investment especially in the energy sector.

Highlighting the investment-friendly regime of the country, the President said Pakistan would welcome both investors from the UK, who want partnerships and those who want to operate independently.

The President said Pakistan was working simultaneously on coal mining and coal-generated power plants and would welcome expertise of the UK in this regard.

While thanking the British Prime Minister for his personal efforts in securing trade concessions for Pakistan in the EU and UK’s advocacy for Autonomous Trade Preferences for Pakistan, the President said Pakistan was keen to be included in the GSP Plus Scheme in 2014.

The meeting was attended by Ms Saeeda Warsi, Sir Kim Darroch, National Security Advisor, British High Commissioner Adam Thomson, and Ed Lewellyn. While the Pakistan side included Sartaj Aziz, Advisor on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Spokesperson to the President Senator Farhatullah Babar, Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani and others.