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ISLAMABAD: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov arrived here on a two-day official visit for holding talks with civil and military leadership on issues of mutual interest, promotion of bilateral trade, cooperation in various fields, including economy and defence as well as regional issues. After about nine years by any Russian foreign minister, Lavrov arrived in Islamabad from New Delhi upon concluding his two-day visit to the neighbouring country.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi warmly welcomed the visiting Russian counterpart at Chaklala Airbase followed by a preliminary meeting between the two foreign ministers at the airbase, according to a statement of the Foreign Office.

Talking to the visiting Russian counterpart, Qureshi said that Pakistan attaches great importance to its bilateral relations with the Russian Federation.

“Bilateral relations between Pakistan and Russia are gradually expanding. The growing relation between Pakistan and Russia is a manifestation of mutual understanding and trust,” the foreign minister added.

The Russian foreign minister thanked Foreign Minister Qureshi for the warm welcome, it added.

The statement added that talks on promoting bilateral trade, investment and economic cooperation are an important part of the delegation-level talks to be held today (Wednesday) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in which Russian side would be led by Foreign Minister Lavrov and Pakistan’s side by Foreign Minister Qureshi.

The visiting Russian foreign minister will also call on Prime Minister Imran Khan and also meet with Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

In a statement with regard to the visit, Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that Foreign Minister Lavrov will hold talks with Foreign Minister Qureshi, as well as meetings with the country’s top political and military leadership.

It stated that the two sides would discuss the current state and prospects for the development of bilateral relations with an emphasis on cooperation in the trade, economic and counter-terrorism fields, exchange views on current issues of the international and regional agenda.

Diplomatic relations with Pakistan were established on 1 May 1948. “Today Pakistan is an important foreign policy partner of our country. Fruitful interaction is maintained at the international organisations, primarily in the UN and its specialised agencies,” it stated.

It added that the cooperation between Moscow and Islamabad is based “on the coincidence or similarity of positions on most of the problems of the world community, including issues of strategic stability and countering terrorism.”

It noted that opportunities for joint work have significantly expanded after Pakistan's accession to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) as a full member in June 2017.

An intensive political dialogue is maintained, including at the high and the highest levels.

“The priority task is to expand trade and economic ties,” it stated, adding that in 2020, the volume of trade amounted to a record $790 million, an increase by 46 percent was inter alia due to large supplies of Russian wheat.

Within the framework of the Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation, specific projects of business partnership are discussed.

The sixth meeting of the Intergovernmental Commission took place in Islamabad in December 2019, it added.

It further stated that energy is a promising area of business partnership, adding that the flagship project is the construction of the North-South gas pipeline from Karachi to Lahore under the Intergovernmental Agreement signed in 2015.

“Negotiations are underway with a view to an early start of its practical implementation. Other promising projects include the modernization of the Karachi Steel Mills built with the assistance of the USSR, the reconstruction of the energy and railway systems of Pakistan, as well as the supply of Russian civil aircraft,” it added.

A common concern is the situation in Afghanistan, it stated, adding, “We look forward to an early finding of a constructive solution in order to end the civil war in Afghanistan through agreements on the formation of an inclusive government with the participation of the Taliban movement.”

“We will continue to provide the necessary assistance in advancing this process, including through the Troika Plus mechanism of Russia, the United States and China with the participation of Pakistan, the Moscow Format of consultations on Afghan issues, as well as the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group,” it added.

In a video statement earlier in the day, Foreign Minister Qureshi said the bilateral relations between Pakistan and Russia are taking a new turn and improving in the fields of economy and defense.

He said that the visit is taking place after nine years by any Russian foreign minister, adding that both the countries desire promoting cooperation in the region.

During the talks, he added that the two sides would explore the ways how our economic and defense relations are moving forward. “The visit reflects the fact that our bilateral relations with Russia are taking a new turn…. No one can disagree that Russia is the most important country in the region,” Qureshi said, adding that the bilateral relation are improving and the two sides intend to cooperate with each other in the region.

The foreign minister said both the countries want to take forward the North South Gas pipeline project, adding that discussions will be held with his Russian counterpart on promotion of bilateral trade.

He said Russia had set up PSM and if there is an investment to rehabilitate it or some other investment, then ‘we can have good opportunities to increase bilateral cooperation.’

He pointed out that when Pakistan was facing wheat crisis, Russia provided wheat on time, so that the prices remain stable.

“In my view, the visit of the Russian foreign minister to Pakistan is a very important visit in terms of promoting bilateral relations,” he said. The foreign minister said the two countries are playing their role in the Afghan peace process and a tripartite meeting was held in Moscow on March 18 in which Pakistan participated. He also pointed out that Russia has long-standing relations with India and it can persuade India to play a positive role towards bringing peace in Afghanistan.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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