ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Sunday held a telephonic conversation with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba and expressed “serious concerns” over the situation after the Russian invasion of Ukraine and called for de-escalation through dialogue and diplomacy.
According to an official statement issued by the Foreign Office, Mr Qureshi during telephonic talk shared Pakistan’s perspective in detail at the situation, “underscoring the importance of de-escalation and stressing the indispensability of diplomacy”.
The foreign minister noted that Prime Minister Imran Khan in his recent visit to Moscow had regretted the latest situation between Russia and Ukraine and said Pakistan hoped diplomacy could avert a military conflict.
Mr Qureshi told the Ukrainian foreign minister that conflict was not in anyone’s interest and that developing countries were always hit the hardest economically in case of a conflict. He underlined Pakistan’s belief that disputes should be resolved through “dialogue and diplomacy”.
Qureshi phones Ukrainian FM; 411 more Pakistanis evacuated from war-hit country; 21 return home; PIA to operate two special flights to Warsaw
Mr Qureshi also took up the important matter of evacuation of Pakistani community and students in Ukraine and their safe return to Pakistan. He appreciated the role played by the Ukrainian authorities in the evacuation process.
According to Pakistan’s embassy in Ukraine’s capital city of Kyiv, there were 3,000 students in Ukraine and majority of them had left the country. It said efforts were being made to evacuate 600-700 more students.
As many as 411 more Pakistanis, including 12 family members of the embassy staff, were evacuated on Sunday. There were 143 Pakistanis on the border posts and 15 at Lyiv and Ternopil reception desks. Another 101 Pakistanis were on their way to Lyiv from various other cities, including Kharkiv, Poltava and Kyiv.
The embassy claimed that nearly 90 per cent evacuation had been completed to ‘safe zone’ and the remaining would be completed in the next couple of days. The embassy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are actively engaging the Ukrainian government to expedite the process.
According to the statistics released by the embassy, as many as 358 Pakistanis were evacuated to Poland, 22 to Romania, six to Slovakia, three to Hungary and one Pakistani to Moldova. The statement said 21 Pakistanis had been brought back to Pakistan.
An earlier statement of the embassy said that the mission had been providing accommodation to the students in Ternopil. It said night curfew had been imposed in different cities, including Kharkiv, Lyiv, Ternopil and Kyiv.
It said that currently there was no safe place in Ukraine and even cities like Lyiv and Ternopil that were in the west of Ukraine had been hit.
“The government of Ukraine is dysfunctional, yet the embassy is making all-out efforts to facilitate evacuation of Pakistanis from the country,” said the statement.
Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan has said Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) was all set to launch an evacuation plan to airlift Pakistani students standard in Poland.
Speaking at a news conference in Taxila, the minister said the Pakistanis would be airlifted from Warsaw, the capital of Poland, as landing on another airport near the Poland-Ukraine border was not possible due to technical reasons. He said Pakistan had initially planned to send two special flights of Boeing-777 to Warsaw to bring back Pakistanis, mostly students.
Foreign Minister Qureshi received a telephone call from Lord Tariq Ahmad, Minister for South Asia, North Africa, the UN and the Commonwealth at the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office on Sunday.
The two sides, according to an FO statement, exchanged views on Pakistan-UK relations and regional and international issues of mutual interest.
Mr Qureshi reiterated the importance Pakistan attached to its good relations and close cooperation with the UK and other European partners. He expressed the hope that the next round of strategic dialogue with the UK would take place in near future.
The two sides reiterated their resolve to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations this year.
On the developments in Ukraine, Mr Qureshi reiterated concerns at the heightened tensions and military escalation. Lord Ahmad thanked the foreign minister for the detailed exchange and expressed the hope that the UK and Pakistan would keep on working together on issues of common interest.
Amjad Iqbal in Taxila also contributed to this report
Published in Dawn, February 28th, 2022