ISLAMABAD                -           Pakistan yesterday offered to host the South Asian Association for Region­al Cooperation health ministers’ con­ference to discuss the coronavirus out­break.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi held a telephone conversation with his Bhutanese coun­terpart Dr Tandi Dorji, to exchange views on the pandemic.

The two ministers discussed the chal­lenges faced by the region and the ways to counter them in the wake of rapid spread of COVID-19 pandemic.

Foreign Minister Qureshi said Paki­stan considered SAARC an important platform for regional cooperation.

Reaffirming Pakistan’s abiding com­mitment to the SAARC process, he reit­erated Pakistan’s offer to host the SAARC Health Ministers’ Conference to enhance cooperation among member countries and development partners in health sec­tor, with special focus on COVID-19.

He proposed that a video confer­ence may be organized in view of the prevailing global health emergency. Foreign Minister Dorji welcomed the proposal and expressed Bhutan’s read­iness to participate.

Discussing the SAARC COVID-19 Emergency Fund, it was underlined that the Fund should be placed un­der the Secretary General SAARC and the modalities for its use, be finalized through consultations.

Dilating upon the economic impact of COVID-19 on the developing countries, Foreign Minister Qureshi underscored the need for debt restructuring of the developing countries to enable them to divert resources towards saving lives.

He shared that the President World Bank and Managing Director Interna­tional Monetary Fund had also raised this issue and in this regard the UN Sec­retary General has also emphasized the need for out of box solutions.

Appreciating Pakistan’s efforts, For­eign Minister Dorji underscored that given the unprecedented econom­ic challenges faced by the developing countries due to the pandemic, a seri­ous consideration of the proposed re­structuring was critical, said a foreign ministry statement.

The two Foreign ministers reaf­firmed the need for joint efforts to deal with the current situation and agreed to stay closely engaged in the matter.

Earlier, SAARC leaders held a video conference to discuss the coronavirus and its impact. Pakistan had urged In­dia to lift restrictions in held Kashmir during the conference