8th Ministerial Conference of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process titled “Peace, Partnership, Prosperity” wrapped up in Istanbul with adoption of final Declaration.
The foreign ministers and high-ranking representatives of 15 participating countries once again it was reaffirmed that the HoA-IP is a unique and important platform for enhancing dialogue, building trust and promoting regional political and economic cooperation.
The participants of the conference acknowledged Afghanistan’s crucial role as a natural land bridge and Afghanistan’s efforts to use its geographic location to enhance regional economic cooperation, sustainable connectivity and integration in the wider region.
In this context the Declaration welcomed the promising progress made with respect to the practical implementation of the following regional cooperation projects, initiated by Turkmenistan: Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India Pipeline (TAPI) Project and Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan Electricity Transmission Project (TAP).
The completion of Turghondi-Serhetabat railway and its extension to Herat, the first stage of the Asian International Railway Corridor between Imamnazar (Turkmenistan) and Aqina (Afghanistan), the initial stages of TAT linking Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan projects were also highlighted.
“We recognize the crucial significance of ensuring multiple sea and land access required by Afghanistan to markets in the region and beyond. In this context, we are encouraged by the progress in the implementation of the Lapis Lazuli Route Agreement and support the ongoing efforts”, stressed the statement. As known, this Agreement, which laid the legal ground for the practical implementation of the transport and transit project Lapis Lazuli, was signed in Ashgabat at the 7th Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan.
Moreover, the participants of the Istanbul process agreed to collaborate more closely in removing the non-tariff barriers to trade and transit, establishing and implementing bilateral and multilateral transit-trade framework agreements in order to maximize the speed of movement of goods across the region.
The Declaration renewed commitments to develop friendly relations among HoA-IP countries based on good neighborly relations, peaceful co-existence, and non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries.
The parties also called on all the concerned parties for the start of the direct peace talks for a political settlement and lasting peace in Afghanistan. In particular the statement urged all those countries in the region and beyond to use their leverage and influence to bring the conflicting parties to the negotiation table. The central importance of a comprehensive and inclusive Afghan-led and Afghan-owned political process was stressed.