Pakistan and Britain on Wednesday decided to enhance their efforts and cooperation to ensure peace and stability in Afghanistan, by complementing their support to the Afghan-led peace process.
This was agreed in a meeting between visiting British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs William Hague and Adviser to Prime Minister Sartaj Aziz at the Foreign Office.
Addressing a joint press conference following the talks, Hague and Aziz said they had a useful and candid discussion on all bilateral issues, cooperation in energy and the war against terror, as well as trade and economic ties.
The UK secretary of state declared its firm support to Pakistan in meeting its economic and social challenges.
Hague said they agreed to enhance cooperation in a number of areas, including trade and commerce and counterterrorism.
The British foreign secretary pointed out that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had an ambitious plan of enhancing growth, creating jobs and alleviating poverty, and his country would continue to play a leading role in supporting Pakistan in this endeavour.
Hague said during his recent visit, the British prime minister clearly indicated: “A friend of Pakistan is our friend.”
He said there were many areas of cooperation between the two countries, especially in energy, trade and commerce.
Congratulating the Pakistani government and people of Pakistan on smooth transfer of power and successful conduct of elections, he hoped that democracy would further strengthen and prosper in Pakistan.
The British envoy said the Pakistani people gave a clear message of continuity of democracy by taking full part in elections.
Hague acknowledged the sacrifices made by Pakistani people in the war against terrorism, saying they continued to reject terrorist violence and intimidation.
He said the UK would work in partnership with Pakistan to provide expertise and support it in developing strategy to counter terrorism.
On Afghanistan, he said good relations with Pakistan’s neighbour were key to security and the two sides agreed on the importance of peace, stability and security in Afghanistan. He said they supported an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process.
Addressing reporters, Sartaj Aziz said Pakistan and UK enjoyed close relations and were good development partners.
He said, “We want to expand our relationship further for the mutual benefit of both countries.”
Aziz said the two sides exchanged views on the entire spectrum of bilateral relations with a focus on economy and trade.
He said Pakistan-UK trade had reached the level of about three billion dollars and they had a target to take it to five billion dollars in the near future.
He praised UK’s investment in Pakistan and said it was their endeavour to expand both investment and trade.
He appreciated the support of UK in Pakistan’s quest for more access to European Union markets.
Aziz added that Pakistan wanted inclusion in the GSP Plus regime and it welcomed UK’s strong support in this regard.
He said the two sides would hold a second round of enhanced strategic dialogue later this year encompassing the entire range of security, political and economic issues.
The PM’s adviser said he would be visiting Kabul on Saturday for talks with Afghan leadership and hoped that his visit would pave the way for President Karzai’s visit to Pakistan.
To a question, he said the closure of Doha office by Taliban was a temporary phenomenon and hoped that it would reopen when difficulties were overcome.
He said facts about reports of Taliban moving to Syria were being looked into, but firmly stated that the government of Pakistan or its institutions had nothing to do with the move, even if such a movement had taken place.
About presidential elections and prospects of his candidature, Aziz said there were five or six candidates in the race and it was the prerogative of the party leadership to decide about the final candidate.
To a query, the British foreign secretary said the requirement of Pakistani visitors to UK to carry £3,000 was just an idea, but even if approved, it would not be for ordinary visitors, but for those who violated immigration rules.
To a question on statements of MQM chief Altaf Hussain, the British foreign secretary said these were matters for the police to decide.
Hague added that it was the policy of British government not to interfere in the working of the police.