KABUL - The presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan agreed to sign a long-term strategic cooperation agreement between the two countries.

An Afghan government official said President Hamid Karzai and President Asif Ali Zardari have agreed to sign the pact during a meeting at the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, Afghan news agency Khaama Press reported.

INP adds: President Asif Ali Zardari has said that destinies of Pakistan and Afghanistan were intertwined and the two countries must work together in confronting the shared challenges and issues. He said this during his meeting with Afghan President Karzai in New York on Thursday. He said Pakistan has abiding interest in peace, stability and socio-economic development of Afghanistan and will continue to support every effort of the international community in this regard.

The President said Pakistan was supportive of an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process in Afghanistan.

He said militancy, terrorism, drugs trade, illiteracy with less economic opportunities were among the main issues being confronted by the two countries. To deal with them, he said the two countries must join hands, he added.

The President said the goal of completely eliminating militancy and terrorism from the region would remain elusive until an enabling environment is created where the militancy is automatically defeated. He said education and provision of economic opportunities would be instrumental in winning the battle of hearts and minds and weaning away youth falling into the traps of militants.

Zardari also emphasised upon the need for the two countries to focus on financial mechanism involved in funding the terrorist activities. He said there was a nexus between the large scale heroin trade and terrorism, adding they must urgently cut this cord. He said equally important in this quest was to offer alternatives to the people.

Emphasising the need for increased regional connectivity, the President said Pakistan was keen to extend Afghan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement to the Central Asian states for promoting trade and economic relations in the region. He said as a first step, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan can sign the trilateral transit and trade agreement this year.

Prsident Karzai thanked President Zardari for the assistance being provided by Pakistan to his country.

The two leaders agreed to build trust and reduce trust deficit so that they could enhance cooperation in all the fields including intelligence sharing.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar met with her Iranian counterpart Dr Ali Akbar Salehi on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session in New York.

The two foreign ministers discussed various aspects of the bilateral relations and noted with satisfaction that the intense and frequent interaction at the leadership level had put the relationship on the right trajectory.

In order to further broaden and strengthen the bilateral cooperation, the two foreign ministers emphasised the need for expeditious completion of the mega projects particularly in the energy sector.

They also discussed the situation in Afghanistan and Syria. Given the complexity of the challenges the prevalent situation in the two countries could pose both at the regional and global levels, the two foreign ministers underlined the importance of working closely with each other.

Khar also met the Foreign Minister of Malaysia. She noted that Pakistan enjoyed close and cordial relations with Malaysia and that the two countries shared common views on various global and regional issues.