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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Iran expressed the resolve to increase bilateral trade to $5 billion under a five-year [2023-2028] trade cooperation plan and emphasized the need for activating more formats of cooperation in areas of economy trade, combating terrorism, and creation of jobs under the existing mechanisms between China, Pakistan, Iran, and Turkey for joint cooperation and mutual interest.

The understanding was reached during delegation-level talks between Pakistan and Iran, in which, Pakistan’s side was led by Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian led his country’s delegation.

Speaking at a joint news conference along with Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari after the talks, Iranian Foreign Minister Abdollahian said that besides other important issues, the two sides held very important discussions on the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project.

Iranian FM arrives

“We do believe that the completion of the IP gas pipeline project will definitely serve the national interest of the two countries. We stand ready to see this gas pipeline be completed, finalized, and operationalised as soon as possible,” the Iranian foreign minister further emphasized.

He said the two sides also discussed finding solutions to some existing banking and financial problems between the two countries within the framework of international rules and regulations.

The Iranian foreign minister called for promoting cooperation in economy, trade, and tourism under regional mechanisms, adding that the two sides are fully committed to increasing the bilateral trade to $5 billion. He said the two sides have agreed to set up a special economic free trade region along the common border points.

He said that the two sides are of the view that there is a need to activate more formats of cooperation in areas of economy, trade, combating terrorism, and creation of jobs for the people of the two countries.

One of these regional mechanisms is the one between Iran, Turkey, and Pakistan, he said, adding that another one is between China, Pakistan, and Iran when it comes to joint investment and other areas of mutual interest.

He also emphasized the role of the two parliaments in advancing and enhancing bilateral relations between the two countries. “We are also of the firm belief that Iran and Pakistan are like one unified country. We are two people living in two different geographies. We also believe that the progress made by Pakistan in the security domain is also the progress made by us. I wish the best for the people and the government of Pakistan,” he added.

He said that the two sides held very candid and constructive discussions that resulted in the signing of a number of “very important” documents.

He said that the agenda of the dialogue was also a discussion on some major regional issues, including Afghanistan and Ukraine. On Afghanistan, he said that any development inside Afghanistan will have impacts on both Iran and Pakistan alike.

He said that the only solution to the problems in Afghanistan lies within the framework of regional initiatives. He said that it is the religious and humanitarian responsibility of the two countries to support the Afghan people, adding that sustainable peace and stability in Afghanistan will benefit the whole region.

On Ukraine, he said that it was a source of concern that the US and some of its Western allies are keeping troops in Ukraine. “And supplying arms and weapons to either side in this conflict is not going to have any result but more killings and more destruction,” he said.

The visiting Iranian foreign minister also condemned the recent terrorist attack in Bajaur and extended sympathies with the affected people and the government of Pakistan.

In his remarks, Foreign Minister Bilawal said that he and his Iranian counterpart signed and witnessed the signing of a number of important documents.

These included the Five-Year Trade Cooperation Plan between Pakistan and Iran (2023-28), which inter alia, sets a bilateral trade target of US$ 5 billion; prioritizes removing impediments on bilateral trade, finalization of the FTA, and establishment of institutional linkages between our respective private sectors; Protocol on Bilateral Economic Consultations, encompassing the rich and in-depth sectoral discussions held between the two sides on Wednesday; and protocol on the 3rd meeting of the Joint Investment Committee (JIC) between Pakistan and Iran, on issue of bilateral investments.

“I am confident that the steps we are taking today will chart the course for a long-term and durable economic partnership between our two countries in the months and years ahead,” he expressed confidence.

He said that the two sides held a very detailed and extensive discussion encompassing the entire gamut of our bilateral relations. “We also reviewed regional developments and our cooperation in the international arena,” he said.

He added that Pakistan and Iran enjoy a complete convergence of views on all issues of mutual interest. “We believe that our prosperity and development is firmly intertwined with peace and stability of our neighbourhood and the region,” he said.

He further stated that Pakistan espouses a vision for greater regional integration based on enhanced trade and connectivity. This is fully aligned with President Raisi’s policy of “Neighborhood First,” he stated.

To this end, he added that the two sides have agreed to prioritise operationalisation of the five remaining border markets, by the end of this year. “We also discussed ways and means to leverage our unique strategic location, as a ‘conduit’ between South, Central and West Asia,” Bilawal said, adding that they also agreed that the ECO is uniquely placed to play this role and the two countries will work with other ECO states towards achieving this goal.

He said that the plight of prisoners and fishermen in our respective jails also came up during our talks. “We have decided to repatriate all ‘sentenced’ persons in respective jails, as per provisions of existing agreements between the two sides. We have also decided to release all fishermen in custody in Pakistan and Iran, to waive off any fines imposed on them and to release their vessels,” he announced.

He said that the two sides will exchange a list of prisoners, to put into practice this understanding, expeditiously. “We also reaffirmed our commitment to keep our common border as one of peace and friendship,” he added.

Bilawal said that he also briefed Foreign Minister Abdollahian on the grave situation in the Indian Illegally Occupied Kashmir (IIOJK). “We are grateful to the Iranian leadership for its firm and consistent support to the legitimate cause of the Kashmiri people,” he added.

Regarding the situation in Afghanistan, he stated that Pakistan and Iran agreed to continue their active engagement with a view to advancing peace and stability in Afghanistan and to promote the well-being and prosperity of our Afghan brothers and sisters.

“We also agreed to continue our cooperation to counter Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred,” he added. “Let me say that I consider it a unique privilege to have had this opportunity to contribute towards strengthening the Pakistan-Iran relationship - a relationship not only with a rich and proud history but also a bright and exultant future,” Bilawal added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

Comments

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Tulukan Mairandi Aug 04, 2023 12:55pm
Only problem.... both are broke and destitute.
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Tahir Alvi Aug 04, 2023 01:00pm
Iran has achieved self-sufficiency in many sectors, and Pakistan can learn from them to do the same. Trade between the two brother Islamic countries was at an all-time high before the US imposed illegal sanctions. Iran is emerging as a major player in Asia and the world.
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Shahid Khan Aug 04, 2023 03:50pm
Selected FM is making a joke here
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