BRUSSELS - Pakistan and the European Union (EU) on Tuesday signed the new Strategic Engagement Plan for cooperation in areas, including trade, peace and security and anti-money laundering.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini inked the agreement at a ceremony held in Brussels, Belgium.

The EU Strategic Engagement Plan is a long-term comprehensive framework between Pakistan and the EU countries to seek cooperation in the fields of security, trade and investment, migration, sustainable growth, energy, education and culture.

Talking to reporters after signing the agreement, Foreign Minister Qureshi said Pakistan gave importance to its relations with the EU countries which were based on commonalities of upholding the democratic traditions and mutual respect.

He lauded the efforts from both sides to materialize the SEP, which he said would result in broader cooperation between Pakistan and EU under the umbrella of ‘Readmission Agreement’.

Qureshi dismissed the notion that Pakistan was facing isolation at international level and said several European countries including United Kingdom, Germany and France were not in favour of putting Pakistan in its money-laundering blacklist.

He said many European countries after realising Pakistan’s solid and positive steps were not in favour of blacklisting.

He said during his address at the meeting of European Union’s political committee, he apprised the participants of Pakistan’s efforts in right direction and mentioned that inking of new SEP was reflective of the fact that Pakistan’s engagement was increasing with European Union.

The Foreign Minister said Pakistan’s foreign policy was co-related with the country’s peace and development.

He said under the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan Pakistan was pursuing the policy of peaceful neighbourhood for regional peace.

Qureshi mentioned that India tried hard to isolate Pakistan at international arena, however all such moves ended up unsuccessfully. He said India was not showing positive response on holding negotiations with Pakistan to resolve all outstanding issues.

He said economic challenges currently faced by Pakistan were the outcome of negligence of last several decades, for which stringent measures were required for sustainable solution.

Monitoring Desk adds: In an interview with Euronews, Foreign Minister Qureshi said “I think starting another tension in that area with Iran, that borders Afghanistan, can also jeopardise a very delicate situation with Afghanistan.”

“I would err on the side of caution and would suggest restraint,” he added.

“Pakistan wants to see a negotiated way out of these tensions. I don’t think heightened tensions in the region will help the US or Iran or the entire region,” Qureshi said.

The US and the Taliban are trying to work on a deal to end the 18-year long war in Afghanistan. Upcoming peace talks are, according to sources Reuters spoke to, said to focus on a timeline for the withdrawal of US-led troops from Afghanistan.

“President Trump had made a commitment to the people of the US that he will pull out and he would withdraw from there.

“The new elections are approaching and I’m sure he has that in the back of his mind that he has made a commitment that he wants to honour, but he also has to see that the gains that have been made over the last so many years should not be lost,” Qureshi said.