ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Iran have agreed to expeditiously finalise a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and to further expand their trade and economic cooperation and adopt a collaborative approach to fight the menace of terrorism.

According to a joint statement, issued here on Wednesday at the conclusion of a three-day official visit of Iranian President Dr Seyed Ebrahim Raisi, the two sides also agreed to boost their bilateral trade to USD10 billion over the next five years.

During the visit from 22-24 April 2024 at the invitation of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, President Raisi was accompanied by a high-level delegation comprising Foreign Minister of Iran Amir Abdollahian, as well as other members of the cabinet and senior officials.

President Raisi held delegation-level talks with Prime Minister Shehbaz. During these talks, the two sides reviewed the entire spectrum of Pakistan-Iran bilateral relations and also exchanged views on regional and global issues of mutual concern. A number of MoUs/agreements were also signed during the visit.

“Both sides agreed to enhance mutual interaction through regular exchange of high-level visits to strengthen fraternal relations,” read the joint statement, adding that the two sides also agreed to further expand trade and economic cooperation and affirmed their commitment to transform their common border from “border of peace” to a “border of prosperity” through joint development-oriented economic projects, including setting up of joint border markets, economic free zones, and new border openings.

Iran says ready to expand energy cooperation

They also reiterated the importance of cooperation in the energy domain, including trade in electricity, power transmission lines and Iran-Pakistan (IP) Gas Pipeline Project. “The two leaders agreed to boost their bilateral trade to USD10 billion over the next five years. Both sides underscored the imperative of a long-term durable economic partnership and collaborative regional economic and connectivity model, particularly for socio-economic development in Iran’s Sistan-Balochistan Province and Pakistan’s Balochistan Province,” it added.

With a view to further strengthening bilateral economic cooperation, both sides agreed to expeditiously finalize the FTA and hold the next sessions of Annual Bilateral Political Consultations (BPC) and Joint Business Trade Committee (JBTC) as well as the 22nd round of the negotiations of the Joint Economic Commission (JEC) in the near future.

They also agreed to facilitate regular exchange of economic and technical experts, as well as delegations from Chambers of Commerce from both countries to intensify economic cooperation. The declaration of “Reemdan border point” as an international border crossing point under TIR [Transports Internationaux Routiers] and opening of the remaining two border sustenance markets was also agreed.

“There was consensus to fully operationalise barter trade mechanisms between the two sides to facilitate economic and commercial activity, particularly under ongoing collaborative endeavours, such as border sustenance markets, which would contribute towards improvement of the economic situation of local residents, and further constitute a step towards enhancing border security,” the joint statement further read.

Highlighting the historical, cultural, religious and civilizational ties between the two neighbouring and Muslim countries, the two sides reiterated their commitment and dedication to further strengthening these bonds through the promotion of academic, cultural and tourism activities, and by enhancing tourism to historic religious sites in both countries.

Acknowledging that the Pakistan-Iran common border should be the “border of peace and friendship”, both sides reiterated the importance of forging regular cooperation and exchange of views between political, military and security officials of the two countries to combat threats such as terrorism, narcotics smuggling, human trafficking, hostage-taking, money-laundering and abduction.

“Pakistan and Iran stressed the importance of harnessing their respective geographic locations for promoting connectivity between the two countries as well as with the broader region. The two sides noted with satisfaction the progress made in the regular shipment of goods under the TIR Convention and agreed to fully operationalise the Convention to further promote efficient, speedy and barrier-free trade between Pakistan and Iran. It was agreed that full operationalisation of the TIR Convention would also enhance regional integration and connectivity across the wider ECO region.

As members of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), the two countries expressed firm resolve to enhancing cooperation in connectivity, infrastructure development and energy sectors. “The two countries also agreed to expand mutually beneficial and enduring linkages between the sister ports of Gwadar and Chabahar,” it further stated.

While condemning terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, both sides recognised that terrorism posed a common threat to regional peace and stability and presented a major impediment to the development of the region.

It was agreed to adopt a collaborative approach to confront this menace and to leverage the existing bilateral institutional mechanisms to effectively combat and counter this threat, while fully upholding the principles of the UN Charter, particularly the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity of member states. Both sides also acknowledged the key role of enhanced economic and commercial opportunities in improving the security environment in the border areas.

Taking note of developments at regional and global levels, both sides stressed the importance of peaceful settlement of disputes through dialogue and diplomacy to find mutually acceptable solutions to common challenges.

Both sides highlighted the need to resolve the issue of Kashmir through dialogue and peaceful means based on the will of the people of that region and in accordance with international law.

“Both sides expressed their strong and unequivocal condemnation of the ongoing Israeli regime’s aggression and atrocities against the Palestinian people, along with the inhumane blockade of Gaza that has resulted in widespread death and destruction as well as displacement of millions of Palestinians,” it stated.

It added that they called for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire, unimpeded humanitarian access to the besieged people of Gaza, return of the displaced Palestinians, as well as ensuring accountability of the crimes being committed by the Israeli regime. They reiterated their support for a just, comprehensive, and durable solution based on the aspirations of the people of Palestine.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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