Pakistan, Afghanistan agree to peacefully resolve Torkham border issue

Islamabad: Pakistan and Afghanistan on Monday agreed to peacefully resolve a border issue that has seen both sides locked in a fierce stand-off over construction of a gate by Pakistan. Clashes between troops of the two sides at Torkham, the busiest border crossing, on June 12 over construction of a gate by Pakistan led to fatalities on both sides. The crossing, in Khyber Agency, was reopened on Saturday after remaining closed for six days. The talks on Monday in Islamabad saw both sides discuss ways to find out a solution to the issue. Afghanistan is against construction of a gate at Torkham. Afghanistan's Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai led his country's delegation, while the Pakistani delegation was led by Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry. The talks were held in a "cordial atmosphere marked by a mutual desire to amicably resolve border related issues", and both sides "decided to work in the spirit of good neighbourly relations and friendly cooperation", said a Pakistan foreign ministry statement. The talks emphasised the "need for creating a suitable mechanism for consultation on border management issues". Pakistan and Afghanistan have a nearly 2,600-km-long border, mostly porous, which miltants take advantage of. In order to strengthen border monitoring, Pakistan introduced a new mechanism that has made it obligatory for every Afghan national to carry passport and visa to enter Pakistan from June 1. Hitherto, people living near the border areas on both sides used to move across the border without travel documents. Pakistan insists that militants would take advantage of the loose border control and cross the border for terrorist activities. Monday's meeting comes ahead of a likely discussion on the issue between Pakistan Prime Minister's foreign policy adviser Sartaj Aziz and the Afghan Foreign Minister on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Tashkent on June 23-24.