European Union Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini on Monday described rising Islamophobia as a threat not only for Muslims but for all of European society as it "threatens diversity".
Mogherini, who is on an official visit to Pakistan, made the comments during a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi after a meeting in Islamabad.
"The strength of our societies lies in our diversity, and whoever attacks the diversity of our societies attacks the entire society not just one segment of it," she said. "This is why for the European Union, institutions, for me personally, for all our member states, it is a priority to make sure that Islamophobia doesn't find any place in the European Union," she asserted.
She also offered her condolences to families of the nine Pakistanis who were killed in the Christchurch terror attacks.
Both Qureshi and Mogherini commended New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for her response to the Christchurch mosques attack. Qureshi said that the Kiwi premier had shown that there was a "different way of dealing with [Islamophobia]" and had told the world "how societies can gel together".
Qureshi expressed "great concern" over the "rising trend of Islamophobia" and said that it should be a cause of worry for the EU as well since the bloc houses a sizeable number of Muslims.
The foreign minister also referred to a recent meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Council of Foreign Ministers where he had presented a comprehensive plan to tackle Islamophobia across the world.The meeting was called to discuss the causes, impacts and way forward in the aftermath of the Christchurch attacks.
Qureshi and Mogherini also mentioned other issues discussed in the meeting, including an increase in trade between Pakistan and EU. Both officials stressed the importance of peace and stability in Afghanistan. Mogherini also lauded Pakistan's "generous hosting" of Afghan refugees, saying that the EU recognises that "it can be difficult".
The joint press conference followed the fourth round of Strategic Dialogue between Pakistan and the EU in Islamabad, during which the Pakistani side was led by Qureshi and the visiting side by Mogherini.
Both agreed to a new Strategic Engagement Plan to build a strong partnership in diverse fields, Radio Pakistan reported.
A joint statement issued by the Foreign Office in the evening said Pakistan and the EU during the discussion had "recognised the need to seize the current and unique momentum for bringing about lasting peace in Afghanistan, which was essential for social development and economic prosperity across the region".
According to the statement, the two sides agreed:
- To join efforts to support the Afghan peace process going forward, stressing that this process should be "truly Afghan-led and owned"
- To facilitate an inclusive dialogue among the Afghans, notably between the government and the Afghan Taliban
- To continue efforts to fight international terrorism "in all its forms"
- To uphold progress made over the last 18 years in Afghanistan, in particular on the fundamental rights of women, children, minorities and vulnerable groups
- To enable and foster connectivity between Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries in the region in order to bring important dividends to the wider region, not least by increasing regional trade
- To make joint efforts to mobilise additional and sustained international assistance for enabling "voluntary and dignified return" of the Afghan refugees
Mogherini meets Chief of Army Staff
Separately, Mogherini also met with Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa at the General Headquarters today, according to a press release issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).
During the meeting, the two discussed matters of mutual interest as well as the overall regional security situation.
As per the press release, Mogherini appreciated Pakistan's efforts and the positive role it was playing for regional peace and stability.