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Sartaj dispels impression of ‘Syria policy shift’

February 25, 2014

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Advisor to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs and National Security Sartaj Aziz. – File Photo
Advisor to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs and National Security Sartaj Aziz. – File Photo

ISLAMABAD: Advisor to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs and National Security Sartaj Aziz on Tuesday dispelled the impression of a change in government’s policy on Syria, saying restoration of peace in the troubled country was Pakistan’s ‘principled stance.’

“We strongly reject the speculations surfaced in the media regarding change in Pakistan's policy on Syria and linking it with the visit of Saudi crown prince,” he said in a statement in National Assembly.

“This impression is baseless and misleading that there has been a policy shift regarding Syria. Pakistan fully honours national and international laws in its agreements and sale of arms,” he said.

Speculation about a shift from Pakistan’s traditional policy of non-interference in the affairs of Muslim countries emanated from a joint declaration issued last week at the end of a visit to Islamabad by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud that called for the “formation of a transitional governing body” in Syria and media reports that Saudi Arabia was in talks with Pakistan to provide anti-aircraft and anti-tank rockets to the rebels.

On Monday, the opposition protested in parliament against what it called a policy shift by Pakistan over Syria’s civil war, but the government seemed ill-prepared to respond to the charge of a tilt towards the Syrian rebels.

After opposition lawmakers raised protests in both the houses of parliament on the opening days of their new spring sessions, Minister for Science and Technology Zahid Hamid assured the National Assembly that it “will be taken into confidence” after a federal cabinet meeting on Tuesday, while the leader of the house in the Senate dismissed the talk of policy change over Syria as mere propaganda.

Mentioning the recent visit of the Saudi crown prince, Sartaj Aziz said both the countries discussed and agreed to enhance bilateral cooperation in different areas, including cooperation in security and defence. Playing up the issue in a different context seemed like blemishing the country, he added.

“I also vehemently reject the impression that Pakistan had changed its position on Syria on pressure of the Saudi government,” said the senior diplomat.

“Pakistan stands by its stance of quick solution to conflict in Syria and restoration of peace and stability.”

He mentioned international obligations of the country as well as United Nations resolutions and Geneva Communique, saying Pakistan stood committed to its stance of withdrawal of foreign armed forces from Syria, lifting siege of different cities and stoping bombardment enabling the people there to run the affairs of the country.

Aziz said Pakistan was also committed to its stance for protection of territorial sovereignty of Syria, stop atrocities and contribute to international efforts for restoration of peace in the restive country, respect to masses opinion and initiation of dialogue to defuse the situation.

The advisor said Pakistan had also stressed on the UN and the international community to cease arms supply and seek a political solution to the conflict.

He said the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had also stressed at the United Nations and urged international community to restart the stalled political process in Syria to ensure peace and security.

He said it was necessary to deal with the chemical weapons, but it did not mean to heighten unrest and killing of thousands of citizens.

“Furthermore, there should be a transition system with full authority and all parties should cease shelling and aerial attacks.”

“There is no change of stance as it was manifested in Pak-Saudi joint statement at the time of the visit of the crown prince and our written position. Our stance is clear that we are not cooperating with anybody,” said the advisor.

“It is not our policy to interfere into other's affairs. Our policy is principled and neutral,” he said and added that non-state actors must be controlled.

“We are not going to provide arms or assist anybody. It is our clear policy not to interfere.”