Foreign ministers from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran say their three countries will increase cooperation on regional issues in the coming months. Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Afghan Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta and Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki signed a joint declaration Saturday after meeting in the Pakistani capital Islamabad.
The foreign ministers from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran say the meeting is part of a process to create a roadmap for a region where so much is at stake.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi says security and economic cooperation top the list of key concerns. "It is important to consult amongst ourselves so that we are on the same page and we have closer positions on different issues that confront our neighborhood," he said.
The joint declaration calls for Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran to coordinate efforts to combat extremism as well as drug and weapons smuggling. But the ministers also focused on the United States new military strategy in Afghanistan.
The talks took place as American military reinforcements arrived in Afghanistan's southern Nimroz province, part of an effort to fight a growing insurgency.
A U.S. Marine sergeant (Wells) said he expected the Americans would be welcomed by the local people. "Wherever they go they are needed, they are welcome. We look forward to helping the people of Afghanistan in any way we can," he said.
But Iranian officials have expressed concerns about the increase of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, urging Asian nations to come up with a regional solution. Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki says his country remains wary of the U.S. approach. "If they continue the same policies, definitely there will not be any place, any room, for reconsideration, but definitely if they change their policy not only for Afghanistan but also for the other topics in the region that can be a subject to be considered," he said.
The plan is for the three countries to hold a series of high level meetings. Afghan Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta says he is cautiously optimistic. ""I hope this decision which we took, our leadership took in Tehran to come frequently trilaterally together to discuss our common issues to eliminate the threats for our region help us to take more responsibility for us, for our region as Muslim countries, as nations with tremendous commonalities."
While the U.S. remains Afghanistan's key ally, U.S. President Barack Obama has said all of Afghanistan's neighbors, including Iran, will be needed to stabilize the country.
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