ISLAMABAD - Expressing keen interest to forge closer relations with Belarus in diverse fields Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif yesterday stressed the need of fully exploiting the business potential between the two states and set a ambitious target of taking the existing trade volume of $ 50 million to $ one billion in next four years.

In a one-on-one meeting and later at delegation-level talks with Belarus delegates led by President Alexander Lukashenko at Prime Minister’s House, Premier Sharif, at a joint stakeout, said , “We need to encourage joint ventures and business-to-business contacts in the areas of textiles, agricultural equipment and products, heavy machinery, pharmaceuticals, and automotives."

"Pakistan is keen to forge closer ties with Belarus in all fields including trade, economy, investment, industry, education, defence, agriculture, culture and other areas," the prime minister said.

At a joint press stakeout after their meetings the Belarusian President said that both sides also agreed to cooperate in the field of nuclear energy and on devising a tripartite trade mechanism by involving a third country.

"Belarus and Pakistan want to promote cooperation in nuclear energy for peaceful means," President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko elaborated in a joint press stakeout with prime minister.

President Lukashenko said Belarus and Pakistan could expand their trade horizon by including a third country, "for example China". He termed the talks with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as "very constructive" that focused on further strengthening the foundation of friendship laid during his earlier visit to Pakistan last year.  He said Belarus was aware of the hard time Pakistan was experiencing in its relations with a neighbouring country.  "Dear Sharif, you are aware of the position of Belarus, as it is looking forward to a peaceful resolution to the issue," President Lukashenko said, referring to the ongoing tense situation between Pakistan and India.

He mentioned that the two sides agreed to cooperate in industry and agriculture and the delegations from both sides would visit each other soon.

He expressed interest in mutual cooperation in banking sector. Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif said the visit of President Alexander Lukashenko would instill new momentum to the multi-faceted relationship of Pakistan and Belarus. He mentioned that the signing of agreements and memoranda of understanding (MoUs) between the two countries today, would usher in a new era of prosperity for their people.

Sharif said he had a detailed discussion with President Lukashenko on regional and international issues, and thanked him for supporting Pakistan's position on different matters. President Lukashenko suggested Pakistan to utilize the expertise of its construction companies.

An understanding on establishing direct air links in order to strengthen bilateral ties was also reached during the meeting, he said. Both the countries also signed 18 accords of cooperation in diverse fields including aviation, education, customs and banking. Both the prime minister and the Belarusian president were present at the signing ceremony of these accords and memoranda of understanding.

Earlier in their one-on-one meeting, the prime minister termed his visit "reflective of growing friendship and bilateral ties".

“I am very pleased to note that our bilateral relationship is expanding in diverse areas. We need to maintain this momentum," the prime minister said. The prime minister congratulated the Belarusian president on the successful holding of parliamentary elections in Belarus last month.

He mentioned that Pakistan and Belarus had signed over 50 agreements and MoUs in the last 16 months and hoped that both sides would sign more accords during this visit. The prime minister stressed to accelerate implementation of these agreements and MoUs.

President Lukashenko thanked the prime minister for the warm welcome extended to him and his delegation in Pakistan. He appreciated the progress and development made in various sectors of Pakistan's economy.

He congratulated the prime minister for the economic turn around and huge successes made in the fight against terrorism. Lukashenko said that Belarus was eager to enhance cooperation with Pakistan in diverse fields and sectors.

The prime minister said establishment of Joint Trade Committee was an important vehicle to identify bottlenecks and resolve issues in trade relations of both the countries. The prime minister noted that both the Joint Economic Commission and the Joint Trade Committee were actively pursuing these issues.

President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said Belarus had significant expertise in building of heavy machinery including automotive engineering, agricultural harvesting machinery, road construction machinery and dump trucks.

He said both sides could develop joint ventures and business-to-business contacts in these areas.

The president supported Pakistan's stance for nuclear supply group, a statement from the PM House said.