ISLAMABAD   -  Pakistan and Russia have agreed to take the defence ties to ‘new heights’ as the two acknowledged each other’s role for Afghanistan and regional peace, officials said.

Senior officials at the foreign ministry told The Nation that the meeting between Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Moscow was ‘very positive’ and the two sides discussed the Afghan issue in detail.

“Russia is upbeat about enhancing defence ties with Pakistan to new heights. They share our views on Afghanistan. The possible Taliban talks with the Afghan government and the previously held Taliban talks with the United States also came under discussions,” said one official.

Earlier, Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Mohammed Faisal said that the Foreign Minister was in Russia on the final leg of his tour to the four regional countries.

“Both sides discussed bilateral ties and regional situation, especially progress on Afghan peace and reconciliation,” he added.

An official statement issue here said, Foreign Minister Qureshi, accompanied by Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua and senior officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, visited Russian Federation on December 25-26. Qureshi led detailed talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Wednesday at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, on various bilateral and regional issues.

Qureshi said Pakistan greatly values its relations with the Russian Federation. He also expressed government of Pakistan’s desire to forge a long-term, multidimensional partnership and friendship with Russia.

Both sides expressed satisfaction on the upward trajectory of bilateral relations. The first meeting between Prime Minister Imran Khan and Prime Minister Dimitry Medvedev in Shanghai in November 2018 had set the tone to deepen cooperation in all areas. Views were also exchanged to support each other’s position in multilateral forums. It was also decided to maintain close and regular contact for strengthening understanding on important issues, the statement added.

The ministers agreed to continue efforts, including through Moscow Format of Consultations, for supporting reconciliation under an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process. Recent developments concerning Afghan peace process were also discussed. It was underlined that being the most important stakeholders, Pakistan and Russia had shared interests and concerns in Afghanistan and had the common goal of supporting all efforts to restore peace and stability in the country.

Lavrov acknowledged Pakistan’s efforts in the Afghan settlement and offered Russia’s support to bring stability in the region. Both leaders also underscored the need to harmonise various regional approaches for developing a regional consensus on various issues.

Another official said the two sides agreed to exchange high-level visits to enhance the budding partnership. “The friendship with Russia is getting stronger and we hope to strengthen the partnership in all sectors,” said the official.

Delegation level talks were held between both the sides during which they focused upon enhancing cooperation in various fields.

Qureshi also discussed bilateral ties and regional situation, especially progress on Afghan peace and reconciliation.

Yesterday, Russia said the United States had made a right decision to reduce the number of troops in Afghanistan but there was a need to wait and see what steps Washington finally takes.

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova said at a briefing that “we have taken note of the US authorities’ statements about pulling about half of troops out of Afghanistan. We consider it to be a step in the right direction, which may help pave the way to a peace process. We just need to wait and see what practical form it takes because we already heard many promises that Americans eventually failed to fulfill.”

Zakharova pointed out that Russia had on numerous occasions warned the US and other members of the US-led coalition in Afghanistan that they were wrong to bet on the use of military force to resolve the Afghan issue and pointed to “the need to employ political and diplomatic methods to launch an inclusive peace process in the country.”

During his just completed four-day tour, Qureshi visited Afghanistan, Iran and China where he discussed over issues pertaining to regional peace and stability in the context of Afghan peace process with his counterparts and other high ranking officials’.

During these meetings, the FM renewed Pakistan’s commitment to assist in furthering peace in Afghanistan and the region.

After his visit to Kabul – where he had ‘productive meetings’ with the Afghan leadership including President Ashraf Ghani - the Afghan government and the Taliban agreed for peace talks.

Later, Qureshi had said he had “productive meetings” over the peace process with the Taliban. “I’ve had productive meetings with the Afghan leadership this morning,” Qureshi wrote on Twitter. “The peace process is making positive headway.”

The Taliban had originally refused to enter into dialogue with the Afghan government’s representatives. However, ‘acknowledging’ Pakistan’s diplomatic move, they ‘conditionally’ agreed to negotiate with the government.

This week, Pakistan and China reiterated their support to Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process in Afghanistan. During a meeting between Foreign Minister Qureshi and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Beijing, the two sides had an in-depth exchange of views on the entire spectrum of bilateral relations and regional matters including the situation in Afghanistan.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi appreciated Pakistan’s efforts for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. He said that China attached paramount importance to its relations with Pakistan and underlined that time-tested partnership between two countries is based on mutual respect, trust and strong bonds of friendship.

The FM recently participated in the China-led tripartite dialogue in Kabul which was attended by Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. The meeting aimed to advance the ongoing peace talks in Afghanistan to catalyze an end to the 17-year invasion of the country by US troops.

In November Russia had hosted talks on peace and Afghanistan Taliban which among Afghan leaders were also participated China, Iran and Pakistan. There were no significant breakthroughs during the Moscow meeting, which was attended by representatives of 11 countries. But delegates widely acknowledged that the meeting itself was a feat.

 

Envoys moot from today

 

A two-day ‘Envoys Conference on Economic Diplomacy’ will be held from today (December 27) to attract foreign investment.

The Conference has been arranged by Ministry of Foreign Affairs in collaboration with Ministry of Commerce and Board of Investment.

Pakistan’s Ambassadors and Heads of Missions from select capitals, representatives of public and private sectors, and government institutions would participate in the conference.

The conference will deliberate on ways and means to enhance Foreign Direct Investment and trade, particularly exports.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Finance Minister Asad Umer, Advisor to Prime Minister on Commerce and Investment, Abdul Razzak Dawood, Advisor on Institutional Reforms and Austerity, Dr Ishrat Hussain and Chairman Board of Investment, Haroon Sharif will present their economic vision at the conference. Prime Minister Imran Khan is expected to grace the concluding session on December 28.