FM explores avenues of bilateral cooperation with Iraq

Published May 30, 2021
BAGHDAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi calls on Iraq’s President Barham Salih at the Presidential Palace on Saturday.—APP
BAGHDAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi calls on Iraq’s President Barham Salih at the Presidential Palace on Saturday.—APP

BAGHDAD: Pakistan and Iraq on Saturday deliberated upon the possibilities of bilateral cooperation in multiple fields, including trade, commerce, agriculture, education and security.

The bilateral ties were discussed during a meeting between Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and his Iraqi counterpart Fuad Hussein during the former’s three-day visit to Iraq.

After the meeting, both foreign ministers addressed a joint press stakeout wherein Mr Qureshi said both the sides discussed export of manpower and infrastructure development, besides other matters.

He said Pakistan supported Iraq’s security and sovereignty and acknowledged its sacrifices in the fight against terrorism.

The foreign minister also appreciated the efforts by Iraqi government to cope with different challenges, including Covid-19.

Discusses manpower export, infrastructure with Iraqi foreign minister; holds meetings with Iraq’s president, prime minister

He said the two countries were supporting each other at the international level and Pakistan desired meaningful cooperation with Iraq. He also spoke about Pakistan’s support to ensure Iraq’s food security.

He said around 200,000 Pakistani pilgrims visited Iraq every year, adding that a pilgrim management policy would be announced for their facilitation.

Mr Qureshi said during the meeting they also discussed the efforts for Afghan peace as they did not want the country to be pushed back to the situation of 90s. Therefore, it was must for all stakeholders to make concerted efforts for revival of peace in Afghanistan, he added.

The foreign minister apprised his Iraqi counterpart of human rights abuses in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir as well as Pakistan’s stance on the Kashmir dispute.

Mr Qureshi also informed his Iraqi counterpart about Pakistan’s stance on human rights violations in Palestine and welcomed the adoption of a resolution in the United Nations Human Rights Council over holding of an impartial and independent inquiry into Israeli atrocities.

The two sides also discussed memorandums of understanding and agreements on cooperation frameworks in different fields as the two countries desire to build bilateral partnership.

Mr Qureshi said the two countries would strengthen bilateral ties through high-level bilateral exchanges.

Mr Qureshi said they were keen for holding an early meeting of joint ministerial commission of the two countries to discuss issues of mutual interest and further consultations.

Both sides also discussed Covid-19 pandemic and Iraqi foreign minister expressed his gratitude to Pakistan for sending three planes loaded with coronavirus-related medical supplies.

They also agreed to further bilateral cooperation at the UN, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and other global fora.

The foreign minister also called on President of Iraq Dr Barham Salih. Mr Qureshi briefed the president on Pakistan’s transformed vision centered on economic security, shifting focus from geo-politics to geo-economics. He outlined Pakistan’s desire to offer itself as an economic hub through peace, development partnerships and connectivity.

The president agreed that the two countries needed to strengthen bilateral cooperation in mutually beneficial areas.

The foreign minister also met Prime Minister of Iraq Mustafa Al-Kadhimi and proposed the development of an overarching framework of political consultations and bilateral cooperation at the foreign ministers level.

He said the framework would provide impetus to deepening and strengthening mutually beneficial partnership.

The Iraqi prime minister welcomed the idea, in principle, said a Foreign Office statement.

Mr Qureshi stressed that the purpose of his visit was to translate Pakistan’s existing friendly relationship with Iraq into a collaborative and mutually beneficial partnership across diverse fields.

In this regard, he briefed the prime minister on Pakistan’s focus on building connectivity and economic diplomacy.

Foreign Minister Qureshi identified areas, such as tourism, manpower export, infrastructure development, investment and food security, in which the two countries could significantly benefit from enhanced cooperation.

He also expressed Pakistan’s desire to meet its energy requirements with oil from Iraq. He emphasised the need to further strengthen people-to-people linkages, particularly facilitating thousands of Pakistani pilgrims who visit Iraq every year.

Acknowledging the potential of cooperation between the two countries, Prime Minister Al-Kadhimi expressed Iraq’s interest in cooperation in health sector and the possibility of utilising Pakistan’s health facilities for Iraqi people.

He urged the foreign ministers of both countries to explore tangible collaboration in this field.

Mr Qureshi stressed the importance of high-level visits between the two countries to build and carry forward the positive momentum in the relationship.

The foreign minister thanked the prime minister for accepting the invitation by Prime Minister Imran Khan to visit Pakistan and hoped that the visit would take place at the earliest convenience.

In an interview to Al Jazeera TV, Foreign Minister Qureshi said the world could not shove the Palestine question under the carpet for long as it would continue resurfacing and simmering.

About US reaction over the issue, the foreign minister observed that they (US) were slow, they should have acted and reacted sharply. They could have saved lives. “The slow reaction gave the impression that they were not prepared to deal with such a situation.”

To a question regarding importance of US-Pakistan bilateral ties, he said US could not afford to ignore Pakistan. He said US realised the importance of Pakistan, especially in the peace and reconciliation process of Afghanistan.

“We are still trying to break the stalemate existing there,” he said. Pakistan always acted as a facilitator between Taliban and the Afghan government, he added.

Qureshi said Pakistan would never be irrelevant due to the regional picture and the new global changes. “Pakistan has always been relevant.”

Mr Qureshi paid visit to the shrine of Imam Musa Kazim and offered Nawafil there. He prayed for the unity, solidarity and prosperity of the Muslim Ummah.

Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2021

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