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President Asif Ali Zardari and Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi watch the signing of memoranda of understanding at the Presidency on Monday. — Photo by APP

ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari and his Egyptian counterpart Dr Mohamed Morsi agreed on Monday to take bilateral relations “to a higher trajectory” by enhancing political contacts. The two countries will hold biennial summits to intensify political interaction.

Dr Morsi was on a daylong visit to Pakistan, the first by an Egyptian leader in over five decades. He is also visiting India.

The Egyptian president’s focus during the South Asia visit will be on bolstering trade and investment links.

A joint statement issued at the end of Dr Morsi’s visit said the two leaders had “agreed that high-level political interaction and exchanges are vital to take their relations to a higher trajectory” and fulfil their desire for a “new and glorious chapter of bilateral relations”.

The Foreign Office described Dr Morsi’s visit as a “watershed and a landmark” in bilateral relations.

The two countries established diplomatic ties in 1951 but their relations were lukewarm most of the times.

Pakistan and Egypt may have a number of similarities, but the important role played by their militaries in political affairs found a reflection even in the FO statement on the visit.

Dr Morsi may have been leading a high-powered delegation which included two cabinet ministers, but the name that figured prominently was that of Egyptian Commander-in-Chief General Mohamed Abdel Fatah El-Sisi. And from the Pakistani side, the meeting, other than the one between Mr Zardari and Dr Morsi that found a mention, was Army Chief Gen Parvez Kayani’s call on Dr Morsi.

Gen Kayani had a separate meeting with Gen El-Sisi.

For increasing trade and commercial links, the two sides agreed on convening the inaugural session of Pak-Egypt Joint Business Council and holding the 4th Session of the Joint Ministerial Commission (JMC) in Islamabad.

They were of the view that there were numerous opportunities for enhancing investments and undertaking joint ventures in various sectors, the FO statement said.

The volume of bilateral trade is close to $400 million which is believed to be far less than the potential.

President Zardari sought Egyptian investment in key sectors, including infrastructure, energy, mining, textiles and real estate. He also proposed a free trade agreement.

MoUs: The two presidents witnessed the signing of seven memoranda of understanding. They are: cooperation in postal services; cooperation in the field of merchant shipping; promotion of investment between the Board of Investment of Pakistan and the General Authority of Free Zones and Investment of Egypt; cooperation between Middle East News Agency of Egypt and Associated Press of Pakistan; cooperation between the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Authority of Pakistan and the Social Fund for Development of Egypt; scientific cooperation between Quaid-i-Azam University of Pakistan and Cairo University of Egypt; and 3rd Executive Programme for Scientific and Technological Cooperation.

Syria crisis: President Zardari urged Dr Morsi to work closely with Pakistan for “ending the bloodshed in Syria and finding a peaceful solution to the crisis”.

“On the situation in Syria, President Zardari said Pakistan and Egypt should work together closely for the common good of the Ummah and for peace in our region. He called for working together to end the bloodshed in Syria and to find a peaceful solution to the crisis,” presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar told the media after the talks.