ISLAMABAD -  President of the State of Palestine Mahmoud Abbas on Monday was accorded a red carpet welcome on his arrival here on a three-day official visit.

President Abbas, accompanied by a 17-member delegation including five ministers, was warmly received by President Mamnoon Hussain at the Nur Khan Airbase. Two children attired in traditional dresses presented a bouquet to the Palestinian president.

Minister for States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) Abdul Qadir Baloch and ambassadors of different Islamic countries were also present at the airbase to greet the dignitary. On the occasion, the two leaders also exchanged pleasantries.

President Mamnoon told the Palestinian President that Pakistani people kept the Palestinians close to their hearts and reiterated that Pakistan would always raise the Palestine issue at all foras.

The President said Pakistan strongly condemned the atrocities committed by the armed Israeli forces against Palestinians.

President Abbas welcomed the sentiments and said he considered Pakistan as his second home.

Pakistan is set to reiterate support to the Palestinians during President Mahmoud Abbas’s three-day visit, foreign ministry officials told The Nation Monday.

Pakistan has been a staunch supporter of the Palestinians in their struggle against Israeli occupation. For years, Islamabad has been raising this issue at all the international forums including the United Nations. Palestine leadership is perturbed with the recent decision by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to build new Jewish colonies in the occupied areas. Netanyahu issued the orders before talking to US President Donald Trump last week. Trump also invited him for a bilateral meeting in Washington next month.

Pakistan maintains a principled position on the issue of Palestine. It calls for an independent and sovereign Palestinian state with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital. The UN Security Council’s resolution 242 - demanding Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories and other agreements for a peaceful resolution of the Palestine issue - remains unimplemented and Islamabad has been pushing for its implementation.

Officials said that President Mamnoon Hussain and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif would assure the Palestine president about Pakistan’s principled stand on the issue.

“Pakistan has been supporting the Palestinians diplomatically and will continue to do so,” said a government official.

According to the official schedule Abbas will be meeting President Hussain and Prime Minister Sharif today (Tuesday). He will have a one-on-one meeting with Prime Minister Sharif followed by delegation-level talks. This is the Palestinian leader’s third visit to Pakistan. He is accompanied by a 17-member delegation, including five ministers.

The Palestinian president and Prime Minister Sharif will also jointly inaugurate the newly-constructed Palestinian embassy complex in the diplomatic enclave, Islamabad.

President Abbas and his delegation will later meet President Hussain, followed by a state banquet in his honour.

“Bilateral political matters as well as other issues of common interest will be discussed between the two heads of states,” the foreign ministry said.

Meanwhile, the third round of “Pakistan-New Zealand Bilateral Political Consultations” was held here yesterday.

Javed Jalil Khattak, Director-General East Asia and Pacific Programme led the Pakistan delegation, while the New Zealand side was led by Stephen Harris, divisional manager (South Asia).

Other members of the delegation include Eamonn O’Shaughnessy, New Zealand High Commissioner to Pakistan (resident in Tehran) and Richard Prendergast, Senior Foreign Policy Adviser (South Asia).

“The Bilateral Political Consultations (BPC) covered the entire spectrum of relations between the two countries, including high level exchanges, economic and commercial ties, defence cooperation, Parliamentary Friendship Groups and consular matters,” said a foreign ministry statement.

The third Round of the BPC offered an opportunity to review the relations and explore ways and means to further broaden them, it added. Pakistan briefed the New Zealand side on regional matters, including Afghanistan, Iran, China, ASEAN and the Middle East.

It was agreed in principle that the fourth round of Pakistan-New Zealand Bilateral Political Consultations will be held in the second half of 2018 in Wellington. The New Zealand delegation also paid a courtesy call on Syed Zulfiqar Gardezi, additional secretary (Asia Pacific).

Pakistan-New Zealand bilateral relations and situation in South Asian region, particularly, India and the Kashmir issue were discussed, the statement said.

During its visit, the delegation will hold the second meeting of “Pakistan-New Zealand Joint Trade Committee” on trade and investment-related matters at the Ministry of Commerce today (Tuesday).