ISLAMABAD - Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran, pledging greater cooperation in diverse fields, on Friday vowed to put up a joint front against the menace of terrorism and extremism in the region.
At a joint news conference after their third trilateral meeting in Islamabad, Presidents Hamid Karzai, Asif Ali Zardari and Mahmound Ahmadinejad also supported Afghan-led peace efforts with the Taliban.
With his administration urging Islamabad's help in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table, Karzai underlined concrete joint action on the reconciliation front. "We need to formulate a policy that is actionable and implementable."
He told a questioner Kabul did not want Taliban's political bureau in Islamabad because of problems between the neighbors. Without elaborating on the issues, he said it was not important where the Taliban office should be located."
"What's important to us is that the war and bloodshed in Afghanistan should end," remarked the president, who characterized the tripartite arrangement as futuristic.
Admitting the region was faced multiple challenges, including terrorism, he agreed with his Pakistani counterpart that drug money was fuelling extremism.
Hurdles to cooperation between Kabul and Islamabad must soon be removed for progress in talks on reconciliation and ending the war in his country. However, he explained all sides needed to formulate a joint policy and act upon it.
For his part, Zardari dismissed the impression that Pakistan's military had been playing a double game during the decade-long war in Afghanistan. "I deny the notion that our armed forces are directly or indirectly involved."
While seeking evidence of the involvement of Pakistani spies, he acknowledged some individuals could be aiding the insurgents. "Maybe there are people among our population who are involved in this, but this is an international problem."
Their talks focused on strengthening regional trade and stability, as well as cooperation against terrorism and drug trafficking, he said, promising: "We shall fight this scourge. Nobody is more concerned about it than me personally."
Without naming anyone, President Ahmadinejad assailed foreign powers for interfering in regional affairs. "Some countries are determined to dominate our region. They have targeted our region for their domination and hegemony."
He said there were no fundamental problems among the countries, where outsiders were creating trouble. The three nations should stand united to frustrate such efforts, the Iranian leader added.
Zardari said he had repeatedly called for international community to join hands for ridding the region of the drug commerce.
It was the third round of the trilateral process that began in 2009. The three leaders hoped their summit would prove an important milestone on the way to an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation drive.
In a joint statement issued after the meeting, the presidents pledged to enhance cooperation among their countries for realizing the shared aspiration of their peoples for peace, security, stability and economic prosperity.
While underlining respect for each other's sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity, as enshrined in the UN Charter, they agreed to proceed on the basis of mutual interest and non-interference.
They promised not to allow any threat emanating from their respective territories against each other. All parties agreed to commence trilateral consultations on an agreement in this regard.
Pledging contribution to Afghanistan's development and reconstruction, the neighbors agreed to broaden cooperation in political, security, economic, cultural, social and educational fields and step up people-to-people contacts, including exchanges of visits by parliamentarians.
Cooperation in eradicating extremism, terrorism and militancy should be strengthened and their root causes addressed, they said, condemning the killing of civilians, as well as any kind of assassinations.
The statement also called for enhanced three-way trade by facilitation measures, including preferential tariff and free trade arrangements. The participants urged enhanced connectivity by promoting project cooperation in infrastructure, road and rail links, transport and communications.
It added the three nations agreed to develop mutually beneficial cooperation in energy, mining and minerals, agriculture and other sectors.
The presidents promised cooperation in the safe, voluntary and early return of Afghan refugees to their homeland in honor and dignity.
Foreign ministers of the countries will prepare and coordinate a roadmap for trilateral cooperation in holding the next summit in Kabul. Interior ministers were asked to develop a framework of trilateral cooperation in areas of counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics and border management within six months.
The fourth trilateral summit will be held in Kabul by the end of 2012. Exact dates will be communicated through diplomatic channels, according to the joint statement.