‘Pakistan-Russia talks mark the beginning of a new era’ | The Express Tribune


Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Pakistan had marked the beginning of ‘a new era’ with Russia as delegation-level talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov progressed on Wednesday.

This is the first time since 2012 that a Russian foreign minister had visited Islamabad.

“This visit, that has taken place a decade later, is significant. We hope that Russia will play a role in bringing peace to the region,” Qureshi said. “In bilateral talks, we also discussed economic cooperation and trade relations.”

The foreign minister said Pakistan was determined to promote its relations with Russia in diverse fields. He also expressed Pakistan’s commitment to the early commencement of work on the Steam Gas Pipeline project with Russian partnership.

Qureshi added that the issue of Afghanistan had also been discussed in detail today. “Pakistan will continue its sincere efforts for peace in Afghanistan,” he said. The FM also commended Russian efforts for peace in Afghanistan.

The FM also briefed his Russian counterpart about the situation in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) and stressed the importance of its resolution for regional security.

“Pakistan desires peace in the region and resolution of all outstanding disputes including Jammu and Kashmir through peaceful means,” Qureshi said.

Read Lavrov’s visit expands horizon for ties with Russia

The next meeting of Pakistan-Russia cooperation will be held in Moscow, Qureshi added. Both sides agreed to hold the next meeting of the intergovernmental commission at the earliest for the promotion of economic relations.

During the joint press conference, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov stated that political dialogue has been created at the highest of levels.

“I am satisfied by the fact that mutual trade has increased by 46% and hit a record $790 million. We both agree that this is not the limit and [promise to] further develop our economic relations… and the key role here is played by the organisation and the session of the intergovernmental commission and this year it takes place in Russia,” Lavrov observed.

Talking about the gas pipeline, the Russian foreign minister added that we have an agreement dated 2015, and soon as that is signed the two countries could initiate its construction.

He added that Russia stands ready to improve Pakistan’s anti-terrorism potential, by supplying it with special military equipment. “This serves the interests of all states in the region,” he said.

“We also agreed that we need to conduct more exercises and drills in the mountains along with maritime excises as well in the Arabian (sea) soon,” Lavrov added.

The Russian FM further informed that the two countries agreed on presenting coordinated views in international organisations such as the United Nations to best serve their interests.

Lavrov further said that both the countries were concerned about the rise in terrorist activities in Afghanistan and ISIL’s presence in the north and east of the country.

“We agreed that we need to further facilitate hostile parties, for them to reach an agreement to put an end to the civil war, based on an inclusive political dialogue,” he said.

The ministers also discussed the situation in Syria, Yemen, Libya, Palestine and Israel.

“We believe that we should not forget the task of establishing the state of Palestine,” Lavrov observed, adding that Russia stood ready to facilitate a direct dialogue between Palestine and Israel.

On the Asia Pacific region, the Russian foreign minister said that the United States promotes divisive strategies that change a region’s stability.

He said Russia was categorically against new dividing lines and instead promoted the preservation of structures that have already existed.

Russia welcomes the talks between Pakistan and India, Lavrov further maintained.

“In general, I am satisfied with the talks and we stand ready to further deepen relations between Russia and Pakistan,” he added.

The visit

A day earlier, it was reported that as per diplomatic sources and officials, the Russian foreign minister’s visit highlights the deepening ties between Moscow and Islamabad, which remained in the opposite camps during the Cold War, particularly during the “Afghan jihad.”

The high-level exchanges were the result of years of efforts by the two sides to bury the past and open a new chapter in their relationship. This shift has been necessitated by the new alignments as well as strategic realities.

The fact that he opted to visit Islamabad, flying in directly from New Delhi, suggests that Russia is no longer viewed India as its only ally in the region.

In New Delhi, Lavrov met his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar and told a news conference that both countries were discussing the “production of additional military equipment” in India. He did not specify the equipment that Russia planned to produce in India.

Russia has remained the major arms supplier to India before the US and Israel took over Moscow in that field. The US has been pushing India to distance itself from any arm deals with Russia. Washington has warned India of possible sanctions if it goes ahead with Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile system.

Sensing a close proximity between the US and India, Russia is also diversifying its options and its policy on Pakistan is no longer dictated by New Delhi’s concerns. In 2016, despite strong Indian objections, Russia sent troop to Pakistan for the first time in history to conduct the joint anti-terrorism drills.


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