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Australian Special Envoy on Pakistan / Afghanistan calls on Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani

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Islamabad: Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani has said that Pakistan is committed to playing a facilitator’s role in the Afghan reconciliation process for the restoration of peace, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan and the region. He emphasized upon the international community to assist Afghanistan and Pakistan achieve this objective by undertaking mega projects in infrastructure, energy and communication sectors to facilitate connectivity between the two countries and the region beyond. He stated that Pakistan would like to extend Afghan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) to Central Asia.

The Prime Minister was talking to Mr. Ric Smith, Australian Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan who called on him at the PM’s House this morning.

The Prime Minister while terming Pakistan’s cordial relations with Australia as important, called for enhanced people to people contacts, high level visits and Parliamentary exchanges between the two countries. He said it was imperative that both countries look beyond the war on terrorism (and restoration of peace in Afghanistan) to bring in permanency and consistency in the bilateral relations. Pakistan, he said, was keen to develop strong cooperation with Australia in multi-faceted fields including social sector, defence and agriculture. He expressed his government’s gratitude for the generous Australian support extended to Pakistan in the aftermath of the 2005 Earthquake and the floods last year.

While responding to the formal invitation from the Prime Minister of Australia to attend the forthcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government’s Meeting (CHOGM) in Perth in October, the Prime Minister asked the Special Envoy to convey his thanks and best wishes to Prime Minister Ms Julia Gillard. He added that he was looking forward to his visit to Perth and interaction with his counterpart and other Australian leadership.

Mr. Ric Smith who had come to Islamabad after his visit to Kabul, congratulated the Prime Minister for his personal role in substantive improvement of Pakistan-Afghanistan bilateral relations during his government’s tenure. He shared with the Prime Minister his assessment of the present situation in Afghanistan; the reconciliation process and the planned withdrawal of ISAF forces from Afghanistan.

The Prime Minister reiterated Pakistan’s principled stand that a military solution was not an option. All sides will have to seek a political solution with emphasis on socio-economic development in Afghanistan. He also stated that during his visit to Afghanistan, he had noted a new appreciation among Afghan officials as well as ordinary Afghan people about Pakistan’s constructive approach to facilitate an Afghan owned and Afghan led peace process in that country. Mr. Ric also felicitated the Prime Minister for his vision to promote cordial friendly ties with India and for the efforts of his government for resumption of dialogue with Pakistan’s eastern neighbour.

Australian High Commissioner to Pakistan Mr. Tim George, Australian Ambassador to Afghanistan Mr. Paul Foley, Minister for Interior Senator A. Rehman Malik, Secretary Defence and other senior officers were also present in the meeting.

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