Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif held a "comprehensive" telephone call with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Monday during which he affirmed the government's "firm resolve" to fast track China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects.
A handout released by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) said PM Shehbaz expressed the government's resolve to fast track ongoing and new CPEC projects which had "immensely contributed to the socio-economic development of Pakistan".
He highlighted the need for both sides to work together and enhance cooperation between the relevant agencies of the two countries in order to fully operationalise special economic zones (SEZs) at as soon as possible.
"While recalling Pakistan-China sister-city partnerships, the prime minister expressed his desire to learn from the experience of those Chinese officials who have remained instrumental in setting up SEZs in their provinces," the handout said.
PM Shehbaz also expressed his commitment to working with renewed zeal and enthusiasm in tandem with China, especially on projects of strategic significance for both the countries, such as the ML-1 project.
He thanked the neighbouring country for its firm support to "Pakistan’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and national development and reaffirmed his government’s unwavering support to China on all issues of its core interest."
The two leaders also discussed bilateral matters in detail, agreeing that Pakistan and China would not allow anyone to harm the long-standing partnership between the two countries.
'Govt determined to take steps for enhanced security of Chinese citizens'
During the phone call, PM Shehbaz also offered his condolences to the government and the people of China over the deaths of three Chinese scholars in a suicide blast at Karachi University on April 26.
"The prime minister strongly condemned the terrorist attack and reaffirmed Pakistan’s firm resolve to hold [a] thorough investigation, to apprehend the perpetrators of this criminal act and to bring them to justice in accordance with our laws," the statement said.
He also reiterated that Pakistan attached the highest importance to the safety, security and protection of all Chinese nationals working in Pakistan on economic projects and institutions and assured Premier Li that the government was determined to take the necessary measures for their enhanced security and safety in Pakistan.
Emphasising people-to-people contacts, PM Shehbaz also conveyed the sentiments of the families of Pakistani students wanting to return to China to resume their studies.
"Premier Li assured the prime minister of China’s readiness to enhance economic cooperation, expand trade and encourage greater investments from China to Pakistan," the PMO statement said.
PM Shehbaz and Premier Li shared the view that the "Pakistan-China all-weather strategic cooperative partnership" must continue to serve the vital interests of the peoples of the two countries, as well as the broader interests of peace and stability amid the evolving regional and global milieu.
To this end, the two leaders agreed to enhance the momentum of exchanges to take bilateral cooperation to even higher levels, the statement said.