**PHNOM PENH: Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Saturday said that Pakistan has a keen desire to enhance its engagement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) — an intergovernmental organization comprising ten Southeast Asian countries.
In his meeting with Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn on the sidelines of the 29th Ministerial Meeting of Asean Regional Forum (ARF), Mr Bhutto-Zardari also underlined the critical importance of ARF for regional security.**
The two foreign ministers also discussed regional issues of mutual interest and expressed their determination to further develop mutually beneficial cooperation between the two countries.
On Saturday, Mr Bhutto-Zardari also met with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.
According to the Foreign Office, Mr Bhutto-Zardari appreciated friendly relations between Pakistan and Cambodia and conveyed Pakistan’s keen desire to further strengthen the bilateral cooperation.
Bilawal says stable Asia-Pacific ‘Pakistan’s priority’; meets counterparts from regional countries
Prime Minister Hun also expressed his desire for strong bilateral ties and further engagement to promote cultural and people-to-people contact.
In his address to the meeting on Friday, Mr Bhutto-Zardari said Pakistan considered peaceful and stable Asia-Pacific its priority and stressed solutions instead of strategic competition among the countries.
The foreign minister also stressed to develop mechanisms and processes for a more coordinated response to future health crises, undertake efforts to ensure vaccine equity, and fight future pandemics in a more humane manner. He mentioned that Covid-19 has exacerbated the economic woes of every nation with supply chain disruptions, mounting unemployment, plummeting growth and debt burden.
The foreign minister added that global environment was in tremendous flux, the international system distinctly fragile and adrift. He remarked that the continuation of the Ukrainian conflict was a matter of deep concern and reflected the failure of diplomacy.
While talking about the conflicts in South Asia, Mr Bhutto-Zardari said peaceful resolution of long-standing disputes in the region was critical for sustainable peace and long-term prosperity.
“We strongly condemn and reject illegal and unilateral measures to perpetuate unlawful occupation and to effect demographic changes in occupied territories, in gross violation of UN Security Council resolutions and international law, including the 4th Geneva Convention,” he said.
The foreign minister also emphasised that a peaceful, stable, prosperous and connected Afghanistan was critical for the region.
He reiterated the demand for unfreezing of Afghanistan’s financial assets and de-linking humanitarian assistance from political considerations.
The foreign minister, who has been in Cambodia since Aug 4, has held a number of meeting with his counterparts and other high ranking officials from the member countries.
On Friday, the foreign minister met with his Indonesian and Korean counterparts Menteri Luar Negeri and Jin Park respectively.
Earlier on Thursday, the foreign minister held meeting with Japanese, Vietnamese and Singaporean foreign ministers.
The leaders exchanged views on various aspects of bilateral relations and agreed on strengthening of mutually beneficial trade and economic ties. The foreign ministers also agreed to enhance high-level exchanges and dialogue between the countries.
Published in Dawn, August 7th, 2022