Heart of Asia Conference kicks off in Islamabad

Islamabad, Dec 9, IRNA – The fifth ‘Heart of Asia ─ Istanbul process’ ministerial conference kicked off in Islamabad on Wednesday.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani jointly inaugurated the event which focuses on the theme of enhanced cooperation for countering security threats and promoting connectivity in the Heart of Asia region.

Pakistan and Afghanistan are jointly hosting the conference.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is to follow Premier Sharif and President Ghani in order of speakers who address the opening ceremony.

Zarif arrived in Islamabad on Tuesday to attend the conference which has the mission to help settle Afghanistan’s problems.

The Foreign Office said earlier that high-ranking delegations from 14 participating states, 17 supporting countries and 12 international and regional organisations are expected to participate in the conference.

It said Foreign Ministers from 10 countries have confirmed participation in the conference.

Pakistan, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and the United Arab Emirates are part of the initiative launched in 2011 for encouraging economic and security cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighbours for dealing with the common problems of terrorism, extremism and poverty.

Six key areas in which the 14 countries have been pursuing confidence-building measures since the 2013 Almaty meeting are disaster management, counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics, trade and investment, regional infrastructure, and education.

Foreign ministers from 10 of the countries, including China and Iran, confirmed their participation, while others are being represented by senior officials. The process is supported by 17 other, predominantly Western, countries, and 12 international organisations which are also sending senior representatives.