ISLAMABAD   -  Pakistan and Italy on Thursday agreed to enhance defence and trade ties.

Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi held a meeting with Secretary General of Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Elisabetta Balloniat at the Foreign Office to discuss bilateral ties in all sectors including defence and trade.

The two sides discussed a wide range of regional and bilateral issues of mutual interest and expressed satisfaction at the current state of relations, said a foreign ministry statement.

Qureshi appreciated the longstanding Pakistan-Italy relations and strong institutional mechanisms of cooperation in diverse fields, including the political dialogue process. He emphasised upon the need to enhance high-level exchanges and augment cooperation in the spheres of trade, investment, economic development, culture and tourism.

The foreign minister underlined the need for opening channels of legal migration between the two countries.

The two sides agreed to pursue joint ventures in trade and economic spheres through transfer of technology. They also reaffirmed the ‘excellent’ cooperation between the two countries at multilateral forums, including the United Nations, and agreed to further deepen it.

The Italian Secretary General stated her government’s resolve to strengthen bilateral cooperation in all areas and assured full cooperation on working together with the new government.

Earlier in the day, the fourth round of Pakistan-Italy annual bilateral political consultations was held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad.

Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua led Pakistan delegation, while Italian side was headed by Secretary General of Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Elisabetta Balloni. The two sides discussed an entire range of bilateral relations, including regional and global issues of mutual interest.

They expressed satisfaction at the current state of relations and agreed to enhance bilateral cooperation in all spheres, including political, trade and investment, defence, education, archaeology, tourism, culture and people-to-people contacts.

The two sides welcomed signing of inter-governmental agreement on cooperation in field of liquefied natural gas and a memorandum of understanding on cooperation between trade development authorities of the two countries in the field of marble mining, leather and denim clothing.

The Italian delegation was briefed about the government’s priorities and people centric reform agenda, which focuses on strengthening of democratic norms, good governance, justice and accountability and improving health, education and environmental sectors.

The Italian side was also briefed on the situation of peace and security in the region, including Pakistan-India relations and continuing grave violation of human rights in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir.

The two sides also agreed to further build on the already existing strong cooperation at the multilateral forum, in particular at the United Nations. They also decided to work on a comprehensive roadmap for future cooperation.

The Italian Secretary General agreed on the importance of strengthening cooperation in trade and investment, including through private sector joint ventures.

Role of strong Pakistani community was appreciated. Issues related to illegal migrants and developing frameworks of legal migration were discussed. Pakistan and Italy have institutional mechanism of annual bilateral political consultations under framework of Pakistan-Italy Strategic Engagement Plan of 2013. The mechanism of regular bilateral political consultations provides an opportunity to review the entire spectrum of bilateral ties and exchange views on regional and global issues of mutual interest. The next round of annual bilateral political consultations will be held in Rome in 2019 at mutually convenient dates. Italy is an active investor in Pakistan. Italy provided Pakistan $100 million under the Pakistan Italian Debt for Development Swap Agreement to social development projects in health, education and sanitation in Pakistan.

The Italian government has agreed to provide a credit line equivalent to $10 billion for Italian investors willing to invest in Pakistan. Italy has also supported Pakistan bid for free trade agreement between Pakistan and the European Union.

Italy has been a major participant in Pakistan’s scientific contribution to the world, and both countries established the International Conference on Astrophysics and Relativity in 2011.