Annan Welcomes Steps by India, Pakistan to Ease Tensions

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Tuesday welcomed the series of steps taken recently by India and Pakistan to ease tensions between the two neighbors.

In a statement issued through his spokesman, Annan expressed the hope that these steps will lead to the strengthening of peace and stability in the entire South Asian region.

He also hoped that the normalization of diplomatic relations and the restoration of rail, road and air links, as well as other confidence-building measures being introduced by the two sides, will lead to the resumption of a sustained dialogue.

The UN chief said he looked forward to the peaceful resolution of the differences between India and Pakistan, including those over the disputed territory of Kashmir.

Pakistani Prime Minister Zafarullah Jamali announced Tuesday that Pakistan would resume the ambassadorial level of relations with India and the air, rail and bus links between the two countries.

The announcement came days after Jamali's Indian counterpart, Atal Behari Vajpayee, expressed readiness to improve bilateral relations after a two-year stand-off between the two countries.

The series of peace gestures between the two arch rivals were heralded by a statement of Vajpayee on April 18 that India agreed to hold talks with Pakistan as long called for by the latter. Jamali has already extended an invitation to Vajpayee for a visit to Pakistan.

Tensions have persisted between the two countries since Dec. 2001 when India's parliament building came under a terrorist attack. India accused Pakistan of involvement in the attack, a charge denied by Islamabad.

In early 2002, the two countries downgraded their relations andcut off all travel links between them. Meanwhile, millions of troops were amassed along their borders.



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