UNITED NATIONS: The UN food security meeting that Pakistan has been invited to starts next week but it’s still not clear if Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari will physically attend the meet.

“He has both options, to be in New York for the meeting or address it virtually from Islamabad,” a diplomatic source told Dawn.

A source at the Foreign Office in Islamabad said the foreign minister is likely to decide about his participation in a day or two. In the meantime, Mr Bhutto-Zardari and his close aides are holding consultations over the matter.

In the meantime, there has been intense speculation in Islamabad over the foreign minister’s expected US trip. A senior member of the PML-N-led government told journalists in Islamabad that “the chances of Mr Bhutto-Zardari’s phy­sical participation are very high.”

But a senior diplomatic source thinks otherwise. He said though efforts are still underway to make the visit happen, but chances are pretty dim. Asked for reasons, the diplomat said one of the considerations is the current political environment is the country.

Last week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the foreign minister and invited him to a food security meeting at the UN headquarters in New York on May 18.

Pakistani diplomats in both New York and Washington indicated that Mr Bhutto-Zardari would physically attend the meeting as it creates the opportunity for direct talks betw­een the two leaders. They also hin­ted at bringing Mr Bhutto-Zardari to Washington for a separate meeting with Secretary Blinken.

“Physical presence sends a totally different message,” said one of the diplomats. “It also creates opportunities for direct, high level talks between the two countries.”

Published in Dawn, May 11th, 2022

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