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MULTAN: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi speaks at the ceremony.—APP
MULTAN: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi speaks at the ceremony.—APP

MULTAN: US-Pakistan relations were under strain because of FATF but because of Pakistan’s role in US-Taliban peace dialogues, the relationship with the US is going to take a new turn, said Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Sunday.

Invited to a gathering of media persons and his supporters in his constituency NA-156, Mr Qureshi spoke at length about US-Taliban peace talks in Afghanistan, the government’s dealings with India over Kashmir and relationship with neighbouring countries.

“US had placed Pakistan in the grey list of Financial Action Task Force [FATF] and consequently, its relationship with Islamabad was not that great. But because of our successful foreign policy ties between both countries are improving,” he said at the Multan Tea House, a café on the lines of Pak Tea House in Lahore, located inside the Multan Arts Council.

He attributed this to Pakistan’s behind-the-scenes role in US-Taliban peace dialogue. “Our relations with the US are going to take a new turn. US-Taliban peace dialogues are underway in Doha and positive results are expected.”

“If peace is restored to Afghanistan, Pakistan could not only purchase cheap hydel energy from central Asia but the country’s economy would strengthen and there would be an increase in the country’s exports.

“For long the war is underway in Afghanistan and it used to say that terrorists coming from Pakistan are carrying out terrorist activities in their country. But this was a planned policy of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi who wants to isolate Pakistan. India wants Pakistan’s isolation on diplomatic level but it has failed.”

Regarding the recent tensions with India over Kashmir, he said: “Pakistan wants peace in the region but will not compromise on Kashmir. We raised our voice over human rights violations in India-held Kashmir at every forum, including the House of Commons, the United Nations and the European Union.”

The foreign minister said it was a big achievement for Pakistan that despite its boycot of the Organisation of Islamic Countries meeting, the forum termed Indian atrocities in held-Kashmir state terrorism.

“We had already informed the world that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi could carry out some adventure in Kashmir before elections.”

With regard to Iran, he said: “Friendly ties with Iran are quite important to us. We foiled all attempts that were being made to poison our relationship with Iran. I have had three meetings with the Iranian foreign minister and they were held in good atmosphere.”

About Saudi Arabia and the UAE, he said: “When the PTI [Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf] came into power Saudi Arabia was not ready to listen to us while relations with the United Arab Emirates were also not good. Pakistan adopted a balanced policy on the Yemen issue as it has friendly ties with both Saudi Arabia and Yemen. [Prime Minister] Imran Khan categorically said Pakistan could not become a part of the conflict between the two rather it could play the role of a bridge and mediator,” he said.

Yemen’s nearly four-year old civil war has pitted the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels against the Saudi-backed government of Abd Rabou Mansour Hadi who fled and went into exile to Saudi Arabia and the Saudi-led coalition then intervened in Yemen.

He mentioned Saudi Arabia’s plans to invest in Pakistan, announced last month. “Saudi Arabia is going to establish a big oil refinery in Gwadar at a cost of $10 billion while it has provided oil worth $9.6 billion.”

Regarding Russia, he said: “The role of Russia to de-escalate the recent tensions between Pakistan and India cannot be ignored. Russia categorically announced it is ready to play a role to maintain peace in the region.”

Published in Dawn, March 11th, 2019