Pakistan and Afghanistan’s Taliban-appointed government have agreed to boost trade and lower tensions along their border amid a surge in militant attacks on security forces, officials said on Monday.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Afghanistan’s Taliban-appointed Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi struck the deal on Sunday in Islamabad, according to Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry.
The agreement is designed to improve bilateral trade, combat terrorism and boost bilateral ties. On the trade front, Muttaqi said Pakistan and Afghanistan had agreed to increase their bilateral trade up to $3 billion from the present figure of nearly $1.1b.
Local media reported that Muttaqi on Monday urged Pakistani authorities to consider holding talks with Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), who are a separate group. There was no immediate response from Islamabad. But earlier talks hosted by the Afghan Taliban in Kabul had proved futile. Since then, Pakistan has said there will be no talks with TTP.
Pakistan has recently expressed concern over a surge of attacks by the TTP. Islamabad has demanded the Taliban in Kabul do more to rein in the group – which has stepped up attacks on Pakistani security forces in recent months.
At the end of the Pakistan-hosted mini-summit of China, Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad on Monday issued a joint statement. It said the three sides stressed the need to prevent any individual, group or party “to use their territories to harm and threaten regional security and interests or conduct terrorist actions and activities.”
These include the Pakistani Taliban and the ethnic Uighur militant group. It said all three sides underscored the need to refrain from intervening in the internal affairs of Afghanistan and to promote Afghan peace, stability and reconstruction.
The diplomats from the three nations agreed “to further deepen and expand their cooperation in the security, development and political domains based on the principles of mutual respect, equal-footed consultation and mutual benefit.”
According to a Foreign Ministry statement, Bilawal and Muttaqi “held a candid and in-depth exchange on key issues of mutual concern, including peace and security, as well as trade and connectivity.” The two sides “reaffirmed their desire to pursue continuous and practical engagement,” it said.
According to the Afghan embassy in Islamabad, Muttaqi and his delegation met Bilawal and other officials. “During the meeting, matters of mutual interest, Afghan-Pak political, economic, and transit relations as well as challenges of Afghan Refugees in Pakistan have been discussed,” it said on Twitter early Monday.