Afghan soil must not be used against neighbours: Zardari
Last Updated: Sunday, January 10, 2010, 21:59
Islamabad: President Asif Ali Zardari on Sunday said any new initiative on Afghanistan should ensure that country’s territorial integrity and that Afghan soil is not used against any of its neighbours.

Any new move in Afghanistan by the world community should also ensure Afghan ownership of the process, territorial integrity of the country, national reconciliation and peace and stability, Zardari said during a meeting with visiting British Foreign Secretary David Miliband in Karachi.

An important issue was the management of the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, in which the world community could be of great help, Zardari said.

He called for an Afghan peace and integration programme that offers incentives to over two million Afghan refugees in Pakistan to return to their country.

Reports have suggested that the Pakistan government has expressed its reservations to Miliband over the inclusion of India in a regional council on Afghanistan proposed by Britain, saying such a move might compromise its interests.

The matter is expected to be taken up at the London Conference on Afghanistan to be held on January 28.

The London Conference on Afghanistan, bilateral and regional issues, the fight against militancy and the second Pakistan-EU Summit figured in the talks between Miliband and Zardari, Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said.

Zardari underlined the need for setting up Reconstruction Opportunity Zones in Pakistan’s tribal belt to facilitate exports to European Union countries.

This will help address poverty and unemployment in the tribal areas and help stabilise the frontier, he added. Britain and Pakistan also need to work closely to strengthen their partnership in several areas, particularly trade and investment and educational development, to eliminate militancy in Pakistan and promote peace and security in the region, Zardari said.

On bilateral issues, Zardari urged Miliband to reduce the time for processing Pakistani visa applications, particularly those of students and businessmen, and to address the perception of discrimination in issuance of British visas.

He also said Britain could play a key role in persuading the world community to provide a "peace dividend" to the people of Pakistan, who have made great sacrifices in the war on terror.

This could be done through international support for their rehabilitation and resettlement.


First Published: Sunday, January 10, 2010, 21:59

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