India, Pakistan Foreign Ministers' hold composite talks in Islamabad

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Islamabad, May 21 : Foreign Ministers Pranab Mukherjee (India) and Shah Mahmoud Qureshi (Pakistan) have reportedly reviewed the progress made during the fourth round of composite dialogue here this afternoon, and are expected to address a joint press conference on the issues discussed and announce a fresh set of confidence building measures in a short while from now.

Mukherjee and Qureshi had earlier had a one-to-one meeting at the Pakistan Foreign Office before joining their respective delegations for detailed talks. The discussions on Wednesday were preceded by talks between the Foreign Secretaries of the two countries on a host of issues, including maintaining the sanctity of the November 25, 2003 cease-fire reached between the two, a curb on cross-border infiltrations, terrorism, and key issues like Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek and what further confidence-building measures could be introduced to improve bilateral ties. Their recommendations are expected to be given due consideration by the Foreign Ministers.

Earlier in the day, Mukherjee called on Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and also met Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

Mukherjee said that Pakistan's democratic environment held great promise and he hoped progress in ties would be consolidated, though that depended on an atmosphere free of militant violence.

In his meeting with President Musharraf, Mukherjee was told that Pakistan is committed to the peace process with India and wanted to resolve all outstanding issues between the two countries, including Kashmir, through dialogue.

Musharraf told Mukherjee that the wishes of the Kashmiri people cannot be ignored while seeking a solution to the Kashmir issue.

Television channels also quoted Musharraf as saying that he hoped the composite dialogue would lead to "some substantial conclusion".

Mukherjee said India is committed to the dialogue and wants to see "substantial progress on all outstanding issues" so that there can be economic development in both countries.

The two leaders also discussed bilateral relations, the regional security situation and other issues like trade and confidence-building measures.

Qureshi assisted Musharraf while Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon accompanied Mukherjee.

The meeting lasted for around an hour at the presidential palace in Islamabad.

The Pakistan Foreign Office said it was "very positive" about making progress in four-year-old peace talks with India.

The peace process, launched in January 2004, focuses on Kashmir, cross-border terrorism and infiltration, economic cooperation and confidence-building measures.

Pakistani foreign office spokesman Mohammad Sadiq said: "We are very positive, we are very hopeful, we are making progress."

ANI

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