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ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has stressed that the United States and Pakistan must move beyond the past events and engage in a far broader, deeper and more meaningful relationship. He said the US and Pakistan must move beyond past tensions over Afghanistan, expressing the confidence that the two countries were now entering a new engagement.

Referring to his meetings with the top diplomats, including a discussion with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the foreign minister called the meeting with Blinken “very encouraging and very positive and productive.”

“We believe that Pakistan must continue to engage with the United States at all levels. This meeting was indeed an important first step,” Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said in an interview with The Associated Press in New York, last week during his stay, where he had been attending meetings on the global food crisis at UN headquarters.

The foreign minister said his focus in talks with Blinken was on increasing trade, particularly in agriculture, information technology and energy.

He said he was looking forward to working with the US on an initiative to empower women, including women entrepreneurs.

About Afghanistan, the foreign minister said the world could not abandon the Afghan people and must immediately address the country’s humanitarian crisis and a crumbling economy. “A total collapse of the Afghan economy would be a disaster for Afghans, Pakistan and the international community,” the news wire quoted Bilawal as saying.

The foreign minister shared his concerns that many Afghans would flee the country.

He said Pakistan was also insisting the Taliban live up to their international commitments that their country not be used for terrorism, girls and women be able to pursue education, and that they form an inclusive government.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said the more the humanitarian crisis was alleviated and the economy was saved from collapse, “the more likely we are to succeed in our pursuit for women’s rights and the more likely we are to succeed in our efforts against terrorism.”

Asked about former prime minister Imran Khan’s anti-US rhetoric, Bilawal dismissed the ex-premier’s accusation of American collusion, calling it a “fanciful conspiracy theory based on a big lie” to explain his removal.

“I am particularly against the politics of hate, division and polarization,” the foreign minister said, adding “If we consistently pursue the politics of ‘you’re with us or against us,’ whether that’s on an international level or a domestic level, I don’t believe it serves the interests of the people of Pakistan.”

He said he believed Pakistanis understood their country needed to engage with the US and all other countries, in order to become democratic and progress economically.

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