APP62-17 ISLAMABAD: November 17 - Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and President of Republic of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the Joint Press-Stakeout at PM House. APP

ISLAMABAD, Nov 17 (APP): Pakistan and Turkey on Thursday agreed to further strengthen their existing close, deep-rooted and multi-faceted ties and cooperation in diverse areas for the mutual benefit.

Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, after holding one-on-one meeting and delegation talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, told a joint press conference that they had an extensive and wide-ranging exchange of views.

“We reaffirmed our joint commitment to continue to transform our special relationship into a strong, strategic partnership.”

The Prime Minister said the two sides agreed that increased trade, investment and commercial cooperation must be the nucleus of the robust economic relationship that they envision.

“In this context we have decided to complete the negotiation process for the comprehensive bilateral free trade agreement by the end of 2016,” he said.

During the delegation level talks, Prime Minister Sharif and President Erdogan led their respective delegations.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said Pakistan and Turkey are two pivotal states, witnessing instability, conflict and transformational developments in their respective regions.

“President Erdogan and I agreed that a close Pak-Turkey relationship served as a powerful factor of stability in this troubled environment,” he said.

He said Pakistan was committed to a peaceful neighbourhood and along with Turkey, the joint efforts for security and development in the region would continue.

“As indispensable partners, Pakistan and Turkey would continue to make efforts for peace, security and development in the region and beyond.”

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He mentioned that 2017 marked the 70th anniversary of Pak-Turk diplomatic relations.

Nawaz Sharif acknowledged Turkey’s support to Pakistan at Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), adding that it resulted in strengthening Pakistan’s position at the forum.

President Erdogan thanked Prime Minister Sharif for a very warm welcome extended to him in his second home, Pakistan.

He expressed satisfaction that Pakistan and Turkey were making progress in the areas of economy, trade and culture, besides strengthening ties in defence and energy sectors.

He said Turkey would soon be hosting the fifth summit of the High Level Strategic Council.

The Turkish President expressed satisfaction over the cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan to ensure peace and hoped that it would help overcome the menace of terrorism.

Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif mentioned the July 15th “heinous coup attempt” in Turkey, which he said disturbed the people of Pakistan who fully backed the resolve and resilience of Turkish nation in resisting the “illegal assault against democracy”.

“The courage with which President Erdogan led this effort from the front was decisive and entire Pakistani nation regardless of political affiliation was unanimous in support and solidarity for Turkey’s elected government and democratic institutions,” he said.

The Prime Minister said, “We believe that the people of Turkey wrote a new chapter in the annals of history and democracy and set an example for others.”

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He expressed hoped that Turkey would continue to march forward towards peace, progress and prosperity under President Erdogan’s charismatic and visionary leadership.

President Erdogan thanked Pakistan for expressing solidarity with Turkey regarding the coup attempt and mentioned the telephone calls he received immediately by President Mamnoon Hussain, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif, in the aftermath of coup.

On the support shown by both Houses of Pakistani parliament by passing the resolution expressing solidarity with Turkish government and nation, Erdogan said “we would never forget this stance and sincerity”.

The Turkish President also thanked the Pakistan government on asking the staffers of Pak-Turk schools financed by Fetullah Gulen to leave the country by November 20, and said Turkey was also taking necessary steps to curb Gulen’s network.

He expressed hoped that other friendly countries would follow the suit of Pakistan’s decisive step against Gulen’s terrorist organization.

Earlier, the two leaders held one-on-one talks and also led their respective sides at the delegation-level meetings.

Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Defence Minister Khwaja Asif, Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, State Minister for Health Saira Afzal Tarar and Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry attended the delegation-level talks.