Friday, February 21, 2014

Pakistani FM Aziz: Frank Discussions with US

The Pakistani Foreign Affairs advisor is Sartaj Aziz who directly serves Nawaz Sharif, the Prime minister of Pakistan, in issues of international relations. On August 1, 2013, His Excellency Sartaj Aziz met with United States Secretary of State John Kerry at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Islamabad. Following what they both called a very productive meeting with the Prime Minister, Secretary Kerry and His Excellency Aziz participated in joint-press conference at the residence. In his opening statement, Senator Kerry explicitly thanked Sartaj Aziz for delaying his trip to Mecca during the holy month of Ramadan in order to meet with him. Following Secretary Kerry, here is His Excellency Aziz’s opening statement at the press conference.

Thank you. It’s my pleasure to welcome Secretary of State John Kerry on his first bilateral visit to Pakistan and also thank him for the very positive and constructive statement that he just made. Senator Kerry is a very familiar and well-respected figure who has always been welcomed in Pakistan as a good friend. We appreciate the leadership that he has exhibited in the past as the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and now in his new capacity as Secretary of State to promote and strengthen the partnership between our two countries.
As Secretary Kerry mentioned, we have had very intensive and frank discussion in a very collegial atmosphere to strengthen the foundations of our friendship and to further build our partnership to achieve our shared goals in the future. As he mentioned, in these foundations there are many mutually reinforcing elements. The U.S. is our largest trading partner and a major source of foreign direct investment and economic assistance. We have – Pakistan has a large diaspora in the United States, and a significant number of highly-educated Pakistanis both in the public and private sectors owe their skills to universities in the U.S…
However, most importantly, it is our shared faith in democracy and respect for the rule of law and human freedoms and commitment to the promotion of peace and security in the region that binds our countries in a new and stronger partnership. As we look into the future, we want trade, more trade, larger investment and cooperation in development, including education as the building blocks of a new and renewed partnership.

In this regard, we highlighted the importance of securing greater market access for Pakistani products in the U.S. and larger foreign direct investment as the new government attaches highest priorities to economic revival. I also conveyed our gratitude to the U.S. for their support for the Diamer-Bhasha dam as a part of its vital effort to deal with the energy crisis.
Of course, these efforts to revive the economy and produce – will not produce full results without peace and stability in our region. In fact, both of us agreed that Pakistan wishes to have good relation with all its neighbors and we hope to expand our connectivity for the mutual benefit.

There are, of course, other challenges too, and today we have discussed the path forward as the U.S. draws down its forces in Afghanistan in areas such as Afghan reconciliation, ground lines of communication, IEDs, counterterrorism. We have to improve – we have improved our bilateral coordination significantly, and we have continued to work to improve them further.
I have reiterated Pakistan’s clear commitment to facilitating U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and supporting any Afghan-led and Afghan-owned solution and reconciliation for peace and stability in Afghanistan.

I also briefed Secretary Kerry about the (inaudible) of a comprehensive counterterrorism strategy our government is in the process of formulating in consultation with all the stakeholders.

We also shared our concerns on the drone strikes which Pakistan not only considers a violation of our sovereignty but it’s also counterproductive as they undermine the overall counterterrorism cooperation efforts.

And as Secretary Kerry mentioned, in order to give impetus to these understandings, we have agreed on the resumption of the Strategic Dialogue process and holding the next ministerial-level dialogue within the next six months. As some of you would recall, this dialogue started in 2010 and three sessions were held within 2010, in March, July and October. But then several events derailed this process and no meeting has been held since October 2010, and therefore the objective of transforming U.S.-Pakistan relations from a transactional to a sustainable strategic partnership has remained unfulfilled. And we think after the historic democratic transition in Pakistan the time to realize this objective has arrived, and that is what we have agreed on.
And we are also grateful for the invitation to the Prime Minister visit President Obama later this year which will further help to (inaudible) and strengthen. And in particular on the economic front, which is the key building block of our relationship, we hope that we can double our bilateral trade through enhanced market access to something like $11 billion in the next five years.

So I thank Secretary Kerry for this visit. Let me state it clearly that we are committed to work together in all these areas in a very pragmatic and positive manner on the basis of respect for each other’s interests as well as concerns. So I thank you again and look forward to seeing you (inaudible).”

Sartaj Aziz, Pakistani Foreign Affairs Advisor, Prime Minister’s Residence in Islamabad,Remarks With Pakistani Foreign Affairs Advisor Sartaj Aziz August 1,2013.

--Harrison Rosenfeld

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