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July 6, 1999
Progress on Kashmir a must: Aziz
Pakistan Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz has said that some progress on the Kashmir issue was needed to persuade the militants to withdraw from the Kargil sector.
''If the Mujahideen or the freedom fighters, as we call them, are going to be persuaded to withdraw, then they obviously would do so if the world is paying some attention to their concerns and their right of self-determination,'' Aziz told BBC World Television from Washington.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief and US President Bill Clinton reached an agreement in Washington yesterday under which the Mujahideen would withdraw and the Line of Control dividing the area would be restored.
Some of the militant groups have rejected the talks between Sharief and Clinton and have vowed to continue their battle against the Indian troops in the Kargil-Drass sectors.
But Aziz said their cooperation could be won if the world showed interest in resolving the 'dispute' over the region.
''If there is greater attention and willingness to deal with their longer-term concerns... then obviously they would be prepared to await or try to cooperate in any dialogue process.
''If not they would not obviously respond to our appeal... because they say they have a right to be in Kashmir and they are fighting for their right of self-determination, so I think this assurance of some progress on Kashmir will give greater weight to an appeal that we may make to them to...,'' Aziz said.
Aziz said the main aim of Sharief's weekend visit to Washington was to draw the US and world attention to what Pakistan calls the 'core dispute'.
''I think the main purpose of the visit and meeting with Clinton was to draw attention to the centrality of the Kashmir issue in restoring durable peace between India and Pakistan,'' he said.
He said another Pakistani goal in the talks was to avoid another war with India.
''Our main purpose was to avoid further escalation and the danger of war between the two countries... In an effort to de-escalate there is no single step which will ensure that,'' he said.
''This is going to take some time and it is a process that we are anxious to do because we want to avoid the risk of war,'' he said.
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