ASHGABAT - Pakistan and Turkmenistan on Wednesday resolved to make earnest efforts for early implementation of trans-regional TAPI gas pipeline project, terming it a game changer and a win-win situation for all stakeholders.

“We stressed the need for fast-track progress on trans-regional energy projects, including TAPI, to advance the goal of greater regional integration,” Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said while addressing a joint press conference along with President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov here.

The two leaders who earlier held one-on-one and delegation-level talks told the media that during the wide-ranging consultations on the whole range of bilateral relations, they discussed measures to counter the challenges that they face.

Prime Minister Sharif said Pakistan and Turkmenistan enjoy excellent bilateral relations in all fields, based on mutual respect, common faith and shared interests.

“Our relations are marked by cordiality and commonality of views on major regional and international issues,” he added.

The prime minister said the two brotherly countries had commonalities of views on a broad range of issues, including peace and stability, counterterrorism, menace of drugs, trade, economic cooperation, investments and regional cooperation.

He said Pakistan wishes to further enhance relations with Turkmenistan in all areas of cooperation, adding “we agreed on the need for regular high-level political exchanges between Pakistan and Turkmenistan.”

The prime minister said the two sides also agreed to promote bilateral trade, tourism and people-to-people contacts.

“It is in the interest of our two countries to make full use of endowed reservoir of human and material resources,” he added.

He expressed confidence that the signing of memorandums of understanding (MoUs) would help further strengthen Pakistan’s relations with Turkmenistan.

The prime minister said he and President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov had convergent views on the importance of cooperation between Pakistan and Turkmenistan at the multilateral forums, especially the UN, G-77, NAM, OIC and ECO. He said the two sides also exchanged views on reforms of the UN Security Council, which should be equitable and reflect aspirations of the entire UN membership, adding it should particularly take into account the interests of the smaller states.

The prime minister said he had extended felicitations on the 20th anniversary of Turkmenistan’s Declaration of Neutrality and reaffirmed Pakistan’s unflinching support to it for the visionary initiative of declaring permanent neutrality.

“I informed the President that Pakistan’s top priority is growth and development to ensure prosperity to our people. To this end, we want peaceful relations with all our neighbours,” he added.

He said Pakistan will continue to provide modest assistance to Turkmenistan for human resource development, particularly in the fields of diplomacy, banking etc.

Meanwhile, Pakistan and Turkmenistan inked an agreement and a memorandum of understanding on increasing trade and economic cooperation.

The signing ceremony was witnessed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov here at the Presidential Palace.

An agreement on Joint Inter-Governmental Commission on Economic Cooperation was signed by Special Assistant to PM Tariq Fatemi and his Turkmen counterpart.

The MoU was signed between Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) and Turkmenistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (TCCI). Commerce Minister Khurram Dastagir and head of TCCI inked the document on behalf of their respective countries.

Later, a joint communiqué was inked by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov.

The prime minister said he was extremely happy to visit Turkmenistan, adding the nation’s rich culture, scale of its development and progress and its exalted position in the comity of nations were indeed most commendable.

Nawaz Sharif said he has brought with him cordial greetings of the people of Pakistan for their Turkmen brethren.

The prime minister thanked President Gurbanguly, his government and the brotherly people of Turkmenistan for the very warm welcome and generous hospitality extended to him and his delegation.

“I look forward to a long-lasting partnership that will not only strengthen existing ties, but also open up new areas for cooperation to the mutual benefit of Pakistan and Turkmenistan,” he added.

Earlier, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was accorded a red-carpet welcome when he arrived on a two-day official visit to this land-locked Central Asian state.

The prime minister was received at the airport by Turkmenistan’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Rasit Meredow.

In his pre-departure statement, the prime minister said Pakistan attaches great importance to enhancing its relations with Central Asian Republics.

The government has a vision of increasing energy, trade and rail and road links with Central Asian states, he added.

This is Prime Minister’s fourth visit to the country, having earlier visited during his previous tenures in 1992 and 1997. Prime Minister Sharif was Pakistan’s first head of government to visit Turkmenistan after its independence.

An official welcome ceremony took place at the Presidential Palace. The prime minister’s delegation includes First Lady Begum Kulsoom Nawaz, Commerce Minister Khurrum Dastgir, Water and Power Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Minister of State for Petroleum Jam Kamal, Political Secretary Dr Asif Kirmani and Special Assistant to Prime Minister Tariq Fatemi.

On Thursday (today) the prime minister would go directly to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on a two-day official visit.