ISLAMABAD / LAHORE: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in a telephone conversation with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Saturday emphasised the need for diplomatic solution to the war in Ukraine, calling for de-escalation and adherence to the fundamental principles of UN Charter.

He also underscored “the need for a diplomatic solution in accordance with the relevant multilateral agreements, international law, and provisions of the UN Charter,” said the Foreign Office in a statement.

Mr Qureshi’s call was part of his latest outreach over the situation in Ukraine after he had spoken to EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borell, and foreign ministers of Hungary (Péter Szijjártó), Romania (Bogdan Aurescu), Poland (Zbigniew Rau), and Ukraine (Dmytro Kuleba).

In the recent United Nations General Assembly’s emergency session, Pakistan had abstained during the voting on the resolution calling on Russia to immediately end its military operations in Ukraine. Taking part in the UNGA debate, Permanent Representative at UN in New York Munir Akram highlighted the need for de-escalation, renewed negotiations, sustained dialogue, and continuous diplomacy.

Qureshi, Lavrov discuss Ukraine crisis; Fawad says PM to tour European countries shortly

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Moscow last month coincided with the start of Russian military action against Ukraine.

Mr Qureshi told Mr Lavrov that he had during his conversations with his European counterparts also stressed the importance of finding a solution through dialogue and diplomacy.

Russian and Ukrainian officials last week held two rounds of talks in Belarus, leading to an agreement on the establishment of a humanitarian corridor for evacuating civilians, removing the dead and wounded, and bringing in aid.

Russian defence ministry on Saturday announced a partial ceasefire to allow humanitarian corridors out of the Ukrainian cities of Mariupol and Volnovakha.

Mr Qureshi hoped that Russia-Ukraine dialogue would succeed and yield a diplomatic solution of the dispute. As he also sought help for the evacuation of Pakistani citizens stranded in Ukraine, the Russian foreign minister assured full support for their evacuation, the FO said. According to the Foreign Office, 35 Pakistanis are stuck in the areas where Russian and Ukrainian forces are fighting each other. It hoped that they could be evacuated from the Ukrainian cities of Mariupol, Sumy and Kherson after the humanitarian corridors start functioning.

Mr Lavrov, during the conversation, extended condolences over the loss of lives in the terrorist attack on a mosque in Peshawar on Friday and said that Russia condemned terrorism in all its forms.

He underlined his government’s readiness for the next round of talks with Ukraine.

Earlier, federal Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry said Islamabad was pursuing a ‘very clear’ and ‘balanced foreign policy’ and that it did not support any kind of war.

He shunned rumours that Pakistan’s relations with the Western bloc had gone sour.

Mr Chaudhry said: “Prime Minister Imran will shortly be visiting Europe [to neutralize the impression that Pakistan’s foreign policy is tilting towards a particular block].”

While speaking to media persons on Saturday, the minister said foreign ministers of the Muslim world and European countries would be standing with Pakistan on the occasion of Pakistan Day on March 23. Islamabad would host an important Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) meeting of the foreign ministers on March 22, he said, adding that some 29 foreign ministers had already confirmed their participation.

Referring to the prime minister’s recent visit to Russia, Mr Chaudhry said Pakistan had maintained a clear stance on Russia-Ukraine war. “Islamabad is not a supporter of any kind of war,” he said, recalling that Prime Minister Imran Khan had never supported any military solution.

In the United Nations, Mr Chaudhry said Pakistan’s permanent representative Munir Akram read out a statement that the war should end and any solutions be drawn through dialogue. “This is for the first time that Pakistan’s foreign policy is being formulated internally,” he said, adding that the whole nation and army was standing behind PM Khan.

Islamabad’s effort to shun the impression of government’s tilt towards a particular bloc is being seen in the wake of the reported move by the British government to unilaterally call off the visit of Pakistan’s National Security Adviser (NSA) Moeed Yusuf without assigning any reason.

NSA Yusuf was scheduled to visit the UK next week.

A newspaper quoted some sources as saying that the visit was called off owing to Pakistan’s policy towards standoff between Russia and Ukraine. European Union ambassadors in Islamabad had earlier issued a rejoinder to the policy through a joint press statement.

Mansoor Malik in Lahore also contributed to this report.

Published in Dawn, March 6th, 2022

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