ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office on Friday said Pakistan’s neutrality in Ukraine war was aimed at safeguarding its interests.

At the weekly media briefing, FO spokesperson Asim Iftikhar, while defending the government’s position on the Russia-Ukraine war, said it was “driven by the imperative of protecting the country’s vital interests”.

He explained that the decision taken by the government in Ukraine’s case was because of its policy about not becoming part of bloc politics. “We have underlined that Pakistan will only be a partner in peace, not in conflict,” he further said.

Pakistan has been emphasising on resolving the dispute through dialogue and diplomacy. It, moreover, abstained during voting in the United Nations General Assembly on a resolution calling on Russia to end the war.

Western countries have been uneasy with Pakistan’s neutral stance because they believe that there has been no clear denunciation of the Russian aggression against Ukraine from Islamabad.

Mr Iftikhar reminded that Pakistan has consistently emphasised the fundamental principles of the UN Charter, including self-determination of peoples, non-use or threat of use of force, respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of states, pacific settlement of disputes and equal security for all.

“We believe these principles should be applied consistently and universally,” he added.

Expressing concern over the continued military conflict, he said Pakistan was calling for immediate cessation of hostilities, establishment of humanitarian corridors and provision of humanitarian assistance, and continuation of talks between Ukraine and Russia and persistent efforts for a diplomatic solution.

He recalled Prime Minister Imran Khan’s warning about the “adverse consequences” of the conflict especially the developing countries.

The spokesperson said Pakistan was engaged with both Ukraine and Russia, and European partners and was willing to contribute to efforts for a diplomatic solution. “As you are aware, Pakistan has also dispatched humanitarian assistance for the Ukrainian people, in keeping with our close relations with Ukraine,” he added.

OIC meeting

The spokesperson said preparations for hosting the meeting of OIC Council of Foreign Ministers have been completed. “We are ready in all respects to receive the participating foreign ministers and delegations as our honoured guests. The administrative and security arrangements for the conference and other events are flawless and in place.”

Pakistan is hosting the 48th Session of OIC Council of Foreign Ministers on Mar 22 and 23, themed “Partnering for Unity, Justice, and Development”. The meeting also coincides with the 75th anniversary celebrations of Pakistan’s independence.

“We will seek to build partnerships and bridges of cooperation across the Islamic world to address the myriad of challenges confronting us and to seize the multiple opportunities that present themselves to promote the collective interests of the Ummah,” the FO spokesperson said about the expectations from the meeting.

The conference will address the core issues on the agenda, particularly Palestine and Jammu and Kashmir, besides focusing on priorities such as countering Islamophobia, recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, and peace and security, economic development, cultural and scientific cooperation and revitalising the role of the OIC.

Progress on the outcomes of the extraordinary session on Afghanistan held in Islamabad in December will also be reviewed. Over 100 resolutions are likely to be adopted by the session, which will articulate OIC’s perspective on major issues.

APP adds: About the significant achievement of Pakistan’s diplomacy, the FO spokesperson mentioned that the UN General Assembly had unanimously adopted a landmark resolution introduced by Pakistan on behalf of the OIC countries proclaiming March 15 as the International Day to Combat Islamophobia.

The resolution, Mr Iftikhar said, reflected the sentiments of more than 1.5 billion Muslims around the world. He said Prime Minister Imran Khan was the first Muslim leader to have raised the issue of Islamophobia at the UN in his first address to the UNGA in September 2019.

“In his several addresses since, at various international forums, the prime minister has continued to forcefully advocate the need to effectively combat the scourge of Islamophobia,” he said.

Published in Dawn, March 19th, 2022

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