Islamabad: Let me first of all welcome all of you for joining us at late hours in the day, in Ramadan for a press conference. I would like to welcome, our brother, the Deputy Foreign Minister of Afghanistan, Mr. Javed Lodin and Special Representative of United States Ambassador Marc Grossman for being in Islamabad. We have just concluded, a short while ago, a very important and productive meeting of the trilateral core group, that is, the US, Afghanistan and Pakistan. This important track of engagement which was initiated in May this year in Islamabad between our three countries and we have had three meetings before. Today was the fourth meeting. I think essentially the purpose of this group is to consult, cooperate, and coordinate on matters relating to peace and security, stability, prosperity and development. More specifically we have been discussing various aspects of the ongoing Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process. In a way for Pakistan this is one way in which we express our solidarity with our Afghan brothers and we fully support an all inclusive, broad based process of reconciliation that is underway, under the leadership of Afghanistan and of course both Pakistan as an immediate neighbour and the United States, we want to be helpful to this process. The second aspect of our consultative mechanism that we call the core group is also, and I must say with great deal of satisfaction, that increasingly we are focusing more on issues relating to developmental cooperation, that is Afghanistan, Pakistan and the broader region, of course with the support of United States and international community. We are very happy to see Ambassador Marc Grossman here in Islamabad again. He has had a full day of meetings, today and yesterday. The Foreign Minister Khar had a very good interaction with Ambassador Grossman and also bilaterally with Deputy Foreign Minister of Afghanistan, brother Javed Lodin. We had very good bilateral interaction that is between Pakistan and Afghanistan, very productive, very interactive. We feel very confident that our common interests which are based on a very broad degree of convergence of interests and convergence of our strategic objectives in building stability, peace and prosperity in the region will Inshallah bear fruit. With these words I wish to welcome my two friends once again to Islamabad. May I now ask the Deputy Foreign Minister of Afghanistan to say a few words. Thank you
Statement by Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Javed Lodin:
Thank you Foreign Secretary, Salman Bashir. I am grateful for your hospitality for today’s more than one engagement, very fruitful engagements that we have had, and a very productive session of the fourth meeting of the core group that you ably chaired today. I am very thankful for that. Delightful dinner by the way, after which it is not easy to confront the media. I Bring every one greetings from Kabul. I am very pleased to be in Islamabad. I wish you a very happy Ramadan. It has been nice to be back here. As my brother Salman said, the fourth meeting of the core group that we just finished today, the impression that I can share with you is that we all very encouraged by the fact that it has become quiet an established process now. It is a process in which we have invested a lot of confidence, a lot of energy and a lot of time and effort. We have every reason to believe that it is a process that is living up to the expectations in producing good opportunities for consultations as was just mentioned. We from the Afghan side are very interested and very eager to make the core group process into one that is responsive to some of the immediate challenges that we all face. In the first instance, we in Afghanistan have a real challenge on our hands, and the challenge is to establish peace and bring to an end the current wave of violence and terrorism in the country. But we also are aware of the long term potential for cooperation that exist between our three countries,, potential for economic cooperation and for the long term vision of prosperity and peace that this region so much deserves. We bring a message of urgency to the working group. The situation in Afghanistan is one that requires the fruits of our cooperation. We are making progress on the one hand, the transition process started which is the outcome of 10 years of very intense, very constructive international cooperation. As a result of this the Afghan people are now gradually taking control of their own affairs of our own security. On the other hand that progress is not really as much as we expect, associated with the level of peace that should be enjoyed by our population. We see violence that is affecting our lives every day. We see change in the tactics of the terrorists that are creating the violence. So we are interested first and foremost in the establishment of peace in the country. We are depending on every bit of cooperation that we can have in that regard. We need to make this process into a message of solidarity between the two countries and a message of common purpose, particularly on the question of reconciliation as the Foreign Secretary mentioned, we need to work as we have done in the past few months and make our work urgent and make it more result-oriented. We need to make the reconciliation process as a centre piece for the strategy for bringing peace and security and stability to Afghanistan and also to the wider region. This core group and the cooperation that it represents are really in the common interest of the three of us. Of course when we talk about reconciliation we talk about an Afghan agenda, it is an agenda that is Afghan-led and Afghan-owned but it must be an agenda that must be Pakistan assisted and that is United States assisted. Without the assistance of our friends in the international community we Afghans will continue to face challenges in this arena. So really the purpose of my engagement today was to bring a message of urgency that is reflective of the situation in my country and also a message of cooperation that is result oriented that produces the outcome that we want. If I may echo what my friend Foreign Secretary Bashir said about the alternative vision, the economic cooperation as really the long term potential for the three countries to work together. I was quiet encouraged today as we covered quiet a lot of ground on that front as well. The two countries stand to benefit from common projects from common initiatives from a vision of an integrated economically developing region. There are steps that have already been taken. We have spoken in our previous meetings about the Afghan Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) as a really historical development. We need to build on that now. We need to go beyond and not stop at that. There are more specific projects as well, in this process and as well as other processes which we are talking about and which are really about our vision for the future. I am sure I can also speak for Foreign Secretary Bashir that we are pleased to see the United States support in that regard, in terms of economic development of the region. I just want to add that I am really pleased to be here in Islamabad for a very fruitful meeting of the Core Group. This is a very worthwhile process that we have and I am very pleased to be in Islamabad as always. Thank You.
Statement by US Special Representative Ambassador Marc Grossman:
Thank you Foreign Secretary. I will be short. Let me first of all begin by saying that what an honour it is for us to be here on Pakistan’s first day of Ramadan. Thank you very much for having us. I am also delighted to see our friend, Deputy Foreign Minister Lodin. I just wanted to echo, if I could the words of foreign secretary, which is why we find this core group to be so useful. It is the chance for Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States to consult and to cooperate and to coordinated the efforts that we are making, as the Deputy Foreign Minister said, towards an Afghan led and Afghan- owned reconciliation process. I think both of my colleagues have done a very good job in taking you through the agenda today of first hand reconciliation which as you know the United States is in support of an Afghan-led and Afghan owned reconciliation process and secondly of a very important work that is being done on the regional economic aspect. What Secretary Clinton has called perhaps a new Silk Road thinking about economic advances everywhere from Central Asia to New Delhi. If I might be allowed by my two colleagues, there was one other important point from my perspective that the foreign Secretary put on the agenda, and that was the regional aspect for reconciliation. We believe ,all three of us, that the neighbours and near neighbours of Afghanistan have an extremely important role to play in supporting not just Afghan led reconciliation but the economic vision as well and so had a chance to consult a little bit among us about the possible meeting in Turkey in November of Afghanistan’s neighbours and near neighbours to talk about the regional aspects of this challenge and of course the Afghan chaired and German hosted meeting in Bonn on the 5th of December, which we hope would speak clearly to our support for Afghan led reconciliation, success in transition and also very importantly economic vision for a new Silk Road. If I must just add for our audience in Islamabad and Pakistan just to say from my perspective this Core Group highlights the unique role and important role that Pakistan must play in supporting this reconciliation process and I think Deputy Foreign Minister Lodin captured it very well. Afghan led and Afghan owned but Pakistani supported and supported also the United States of America. So it is not a mistake, not a coincidence that we are here now for the second time for the meetings and I end by thanking you again for the hospitality and for having us here on this day. Thank you.
Question and Answer Session:
Q: My question is addressed to the Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister. Could you specify the issues that were discussed in today’s meeting with respect to the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan and what was the outcome of these discussions?
A: Deputy Foreign Minister Lodin: Thank you for that question. As far the Afghan government is concerned, reconciliation is a single most important strategy to bring peace to our country after such a long time and let us just remind ourselves that it is just not the past ten years that we are talking about. Afghanistan has had really been searching for peace for the last three decades or more. So the need for peace and stability is so spoken in my country that is unbelievable. People have simply run out of patience with the absence of peace. So that needs to be translated into action. Of course everything we do, the fact that we are building up our military forces, our security forces is really a strategy to make ensure that there is long term stability and peace. The fact that the international community is helping us in that regard is also to do with the stability and peace. But the reconciliation is important because we really have to find a political solution for this and for the long term. We have started a process and President Karzai has personally championed this invested a lot of time, effort and energy in the success of the process. However, the challenge we face is a regional challenge. The Taliban threat and the terrorist threat in general is essentially a regional threat. We have the evidence of that here in Pakistan. You are dealing with terrorism as much as we do. Your security is also at risk. But obviously you have your own approach to your own security. As far as our process of reconciliation is concerned, we would depend on the cooperation that Pakistan extends to us in terms of encouraging those elements in the leadership of the Taliban who could potentially be brought to the process of reconciliation. We need to do that because although the process that we have started within Afghanistan of bringing the rank and file/foot soldiers of Taliban and mid-level and lower-level commanders to the peaceful process has been working and has been effective but the challenge will not be addressed unless we really bring the leadership, the top leadership on board. In this context, there are a number of priorities and initiatives. I will not go into details because it is an ongoing process. We look forward to greater outcome and greater cooperation as we move on within the Core Group. On the reconciliation question we also have a bilateral mechanism with Pakistan, the Joint Commission that was established during our President’s last visit to Islamabad. We look to discuss some real aspects of cooperation on that front as well.
Q: Mr. Foreign Secretary (Salman Bashir) could you please enlighten us if you have raised the issue of cross-border raids with Afghanistan as the Pakistani people are very concerned about this issue.
My second question is for Ambassador Grossman. Could you please elaborate the nature of US relations with Pakistan? It appears the relationship is facing a lot of problems and is not running very smooth.
A: Foreign Secretary Bashir: Well on the first part, may I just say that the question of cross-border raids is a matter of ongoing engagement between Pakistan and Afghanistan and I believe we have great degree of clarity on the sources of the problem and the nature of the problem. We are determined to deal with it accordingly. We don’t want to make this into any acrimonious issue between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Our relationship has seen huge improvements and it is militancy that is affecting both countries and the peoples of our two countries. We are very determined to deal with it in an appropriate manner. Your second question on Pakistan US relationship is directed towards Ambassador Grossman, but if I may add on it. I think we have an ongoing and good constructive engagement with Ambassador Grossman and the State Department, I personally feel very confident that whatever matters we are addressing, we are addressing these constructively and in a friendly manner.
Ambassador Grossman: Thank you very much. Well, that’s a good introduction. I will answer your question this way. As you said, in your question I think it is clear that over the past few months, every relationship between friends has its ups and downs. We have had some over the past few months. But as the Foreign Secretary said we are committed to doing two things in this relationship. First of all identifying where we have shared interests and secondly, acting on them jointly. So I think you can see for the conversations we have had here today and my meetings all during the day today, we have shared interest in counter terrorism. Whenever I stand up in front of this audience, one of the first things I try to do is first of all is to express my respect as Deputy Foreign Minister Lodin did, for the thousands and thousands of Pakistanis that have been killed and thousands of Pakistani security personnel who have given their lives in fighting these terrorists. So we have a great joint interest in fighting terrorism and extremism. As you can see from here we have a great joint interest in supporting Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation. I believe we have an increasing interest together in the economic aspect of this relationship. So there is work to do but I think if we keep to the fundamental prospect that Pakistan and the United States share interests as we have for many years. I believe so that we will do this for many many years to come. And if we can act jointly on those interests we will build ourselves a relationship that the Pakistani and the American people can be proud of.
Q: My question is to Ambassador Mark Grossman. There is a report that the US Government has confirmed that there are links between Al-Qaeda and Iran. Could you please comment on that? Secondly, could you also comment on the news that US diplomats have been restricted from moving freely in Pakistan?
A: Ambassador Grossman: First of all on the question of the Treasury Department report, I am sorry I haven’t seen such a report and I cannot comment on that. On the general point and that goes back to what I told your colleague right here, in all of my conversations here today and especially in my conversations with the Foreign Secretary, what I can say is that the common enemy here is Al-Qaeda. So there should be no doubt that between Pakistan and the United States there has to be a joint effort in finishing Al-Qaeda and get it away from us so that the Pakistani people, the American people and the people of the world are more secure.
On the second question, so far we have had a lot of conversation about this question of travel. The American diplomats in Pakistan are free to travel. The Government of Pakistan has some regulations and it has got some requirements and we are working together on how to meet those requirements. I am absolutely certain we will be able to do so, that allows the Government of Pakistan to meet its requirements and the US diplomats to travel freely in Pakistan.
Q: American leaders and diplomats have been continuously assuring that the US will not abandon Pakistan this time like it did in the 90s. At the same time the President of Pakistan today said we need “clear terms of engagement” with the US. This gives the feeling that in a deeper sense the relationship between the two countries is not rally normal. Your comments, please.
My second question is addressed to the Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister. You said that your Government needs to talk to the top leadership of Taliban and not the middle and lower levels. Has the Afghan Government identified those Taliban leaders and could you also say who they are?
A: Ambassador Grossman: Thank you very much for your question. I did have the good fortune to visit President Zardari and I join you in welcoming Ambassador Crocker, our Ambassador to Afghanistan back in Pakistan. He was here today for this meeting of the Core Group. I do have the opportunity to visit with him and we did have a long conversation on how to get to the assumption and the fundamentals of relationship between Pakistan and the Unites States. And we talked about the history, we talked about today and talked about what we will do tomorrow. And with respect there is again much work to do between diplomats. And others going forward here but I think the idea, I don’t mean to put words in President Zardari’s mouth so I will speak for myself. The idea is that if you have to cross a range of issues that Pakistan and the US are dealing with. We have shared interest in so many of these areas. And we ought to be able to find ways to work together on those shared interests. Now that’s a simple thing to say and a complicated thing to carry out. But our job as diplomats is to carry this process out. And so the President the Foreign Minister and the foreign Secretary we all talked about how to work on this thing together. But I think the basic philosophy here is to find out where are the common interests, and I believe there are many, and then find out how to work on them jointly. Second, with great respect to you and your question, I don’t think the United States is in anyway repeating the mistakes of 1989 and 1990s. And I think the Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill for civilian assistance to Pakistan is a long term strategic investment in Pakistan. The future that we see not just for Afghanistan but the region as a whole including Central Asia, Pakistan and India is an argument not just for long term commitment to the region but also long term engagement and long investment in the region. So with great respect, I don’t accept the argument that this is 1989 or 1990.
Deputy Foreign Minister Lodin: On the question of the Taliban leadership, it is fair to say that between us we have a pretty good understanding of the Taliban leadership and who they are at various levels. With some of them, that we have identified, we have even contacts with. But the majority of those that need to be brought into the peace process are the ones that we need to establish contacts with. Based on the knowledge that we have, we need to identify whom we can reconcile with. We approach them and we talk to them about the peace process. That is a challenge but the knowledge with whom we are talking to is very much there. But we have to translate that knowledge into some actionable cooperation.
For more information, contact:
Syed Haider Ali Jafri
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Government of Pakistan
Tel: +9251 921 0335 and 9056604