ISLAMABAD: Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said that Iran intends to expand economic cooperation with Pakistan, along with increasing regional cooperation and carrying out joint efforts in the fight against extremism and terrorism.
Addressing a joint press conference during his day-long visit to Pakistan on Thursday, following a round of talks at the Foreign Office with prime minster's adviser Sartaj Aziz, the visiting foreign minister said "both countries need to exploit the wide array of options available in economic cooperation, following the lifting of sanctions linked to Tehran's nuclear programme".
Zarif said that during the discussions, both sides reviewed the regional situation and extremism.
"Iran hopes for a positive outcome from the talks between the Afghan Taliban and Afghan government being mediated by Pakistan, which will help bring peace in the region," he added.
Also speaking at the occasion, Prime Minister's Adviser on National Security Sartaj Aziz said that views on regional and international issues of mutual interest were also exchanged during the meeting.
“We agreed that enhancing bilateral collaboration in the energy sector was one of the major areas of mutually beneficial cooperation," Aziz said. Progress on the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline was also emphasised, he added.
Aziz further said that economic integration and connectivity within the region should be improved in order to achieve better economic and commercial activity "not just between our two countries but all the neighbouring countries as well".
He also said that Pakistan welcomes the agreement on nuclear deal, hoping that it will lead to peace on an international level.
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Earlier, the top Iranian diplomat arrived at PM House and discussed bilateral ties with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. He also took the premier into confidence over the recent nuclear deal between the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.
Zarif also held formal talks with Sartaj Aziz at the Foreign Office where all aspects of bilateral cooperation between the two countries were reviewed.
This is Zarif's second trip to Pakistan in a span of four months which is part of a South Asia visit. He is scheduled to travel to Delhi from Islamabad.
Zarif had at the end of last month undertaken a visit of Arab countries touring Kuwait, Qatar and Iraq for what was described by the Iranian foreign ministry as an effort to “strengthen ties and develop cooperation in all fields with neighbours”.
Iranian FM promotes unity in Muslim World
Speaking at the special meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committee of National Assembly later in the day, Zarif called for unity in the Muslim world and said no country including India can undermine the importance of Pakistan for Iran.
The Iranian foreign minister offered his compliments to Pakistani nation on its Independence Day. Replying to a question raised by Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Zarif said “Iran has completed its part of the pipeline and is waiting for Pakistan to complete its part”.
On a question raised by Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed, Iranian FM reiterated unflinching support of Iran for Palestine and Kashmir. He said Iran faced international opposition for sticking to the cause of Palestine.
Zarif hoped that the US Congress would not override the presidential veto on the Iran nuclear deal. Speaking candidly, he said Iran had settled only one issue with the United States, adding that it still has serious differences with the world power.
Besides developing trade and economic cooperation, Iran, through this regional outreach, is seeking to address its neighbours’ concerns and engage them for resolution of regional issues, such as the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, and also for dealing with the threat from terrorist groups, including Daesh.
In Pakistan’s context, Tehran is specifically interested in developing energy cooperation.
Iran is considered to be one of the top energy sources in the world having 158 billion barrels of oil reserves. With 34 trillion cubic metres of gas, Iran also has one of the world’s largest gas reserves.
Iran and Pakistan have an agreement on building a gas pipeline, but the project had been held up because of the sanctions on Iran.
Lately, there has been talk again to include India in the project. Delhi had earlier walked out of it in view of the sanctions on Iran.
An Indian delegation is expected to visit Tehran in September to discuss the possibilities of rejoining the pipeline project.
Pakistan and Iran have also been working on an electricity sharing project. Iran is already providing 74MW of electricity to Pakistan’s border towns — a figure that is planned to be increased to 100MW. Transmission line for another 100MW project is under construction for providing electricity to Gwadar.
The two sides are now negotiating a 1,000MW agreement for which feasibility studies have been completed.
A Pakistani delegation would soon visit Tehran for negotiating and finalising power purchase agreement for 1,000MW, a spokesman for water and power ministry had said.