Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, right, talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, second from left, in Islamabad on Thursday. – Photo by AP

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf said Thursday that with good progress in relationship between Pakistan and Russian Federation over the years, there is consensus in Pakistan that our relations with Russian Federation should be further strengthened.

Russia is very important because of its linkages with Europe and Asia, he added.

The prime minister was talking to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Viktorovich Lavrov, who along with his delegation called on him at the PM House and discussed matters of bilateral interest.

Ashraf said that he was happy to note that both the Pakistani and Russian foreign ministers have had good discussion during their meeting earlier on Thursday.

Referring to a recent visit of high powered Russian delegation which signed a number of Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) with Pakistan on energy, railway and steel sectors, the premier said that Pakistan Steel Mills, a symbol of the friendship of Pakistan and Russia in the 20th century, will now serve as a bridge to further intensify relations between the two countries in the 21st century.

He said that Pakistan and Russia have convergence on many regional and international issues including Afghanistan, Syria and the Security Council as well as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

Prime Minister Ashraf said that Pakistan seeks to increase economic relations and benefit from the expertise of Russian Federation, especially in the energy sector where Russia has experience in coal mining and generation of coal power plants.

Similarly Pakistan seeks Russian Federation's cooperation in expansion of Pakistan Steel Mills which is important to this government because former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had initiated the project, he added.

The prime minister expressed the hope that progress will also be made for cooperation between the two countries for improvement of Railways in Pakistan.

He assured the Russian foreign minister that his government would extend all possible assistance to the Russian Federation in securing contracts in Pakistan and their execution.

The prime minister expressed the hope that both the countries would exchange parliamentary, business and cultural delegations to further strengthen the relations.

In this connection he referred to the visit of Speaker National Assembly Fehmida Mirza to Russia early next year.

The Russian foreign minister conveyed the best wishes of President Vladimir Putin for President Asif Ali Zardari.

FM Lavrov said that the inter-governmental commission between the two countries has been working to promote economic cooperation between the two countries.

He said that Russia attaches great importance to consultation with Pakistan and is looking forward to Pakistan's participation in the next SCO Summit scheduled to be held in Kyrgyzstan.

The prime minister asked the Russian foreign minister to convey his best wishes to President Putin and hoped that his stay during the visit was comfortable.

The meeting was attended by Minister for Water and Power Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar, Minister for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar, the secretary foreign affairs and other senior officials.

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