Pakistan, EU agree to strengthen engagement at multiple levels

ISLAMABAD, Oct 7 (APP):Pakistan and the European Union on Tuesday held 6th Round of Political Dialogue wherein both the sides agreed to strengthen engagement at multiple levels.

In the Dialogue held virtually, Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood and Enrique Mora, Deputy Secretary General of European External Action Service (EEAS) led their respective sides, said a Foreign Office press release.

The foreign secretary noted the special significance of the round of Political Dialogue, being the first one since the signing of Pakistan-EU Strategic Engagement Plan (SEP) in June 2019.

SEP is a forward looking and comprehensive framework for Pakistan-EU cooperation in diverse areas.

The Political Dialogue covered a broad-ranging agenda- including Pakistan-EU bilateral matters and exchange of views on regional and international issues.

The foreign secretary emphasized the importance Pakistan attaches the to EU as a key international partner and noted the positive trends on the political and economic planes.
He underscored Pakistan’s desire to further expand the existing collaboration, especially in trade, investment, education, science and technology, people-to-people contacts, human rights and development cooperation.

Sohail underlined that the government attached great importance to upholding human rights, besides Pakistan’s commitment towards implementation of the 27 UN conventions related to the GSP Plus scheme.

He also highlighted Pakistan’s contributions to counter-terrorism and addressing illegal migration, and called for opening new channels of legal migration.

The importance of Strategic Dialogue (at the level of foreign ministers) as well as summit level interaction to consolidate the relationship was also underlined.

In the context of COVID-19, the foreign secretary highlighted the steps taken by the Government of Pakistan to minimize the adverse effects of coronavirus on lives, livelihoods, and the economy.

He underscored that the ‘smart lockdown’ strategy had paid dividends and Pakistan was being acknowledged by the international community, including the World Health Organization (WHO) as a ‘success story’.

The foreign secretary acknowledged the importance of mutually-beneficial GSP Plus status granted by the European Union to Pakistan.

He stated that the COVID-19 had had a detrimental effect on the world trade, including Pakistan’s exports to the EU.

He hoped that Pakistan and the European Union could work together to increase trade in diversified fields.

The foreign secretary highlighted Pakistan’s positive contributions to the Afghan peace process and underlined that the historic opportunity created by the US-Taliban Peace Agreement and commencement of Intra-Afghan Negotiations should be seized by all Afghan stakeholders to work out an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement.

He stressed the importance of reduction in violence leading to ceasefire, and also underscored the significance of the international community’s close economic engagement with Afghanistan for reconstruction and economic development, which would pave the way for return of Afghan refugees to their homeland with dignity and honour.

Foreign Secretary Sohail apprised his counterpart of the dire human rights and humanitarian situation in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), illegal measures to change the demographic structure of the occupied territory, and the threat to peace and security posed by Indian actions.

He underscored the importance of the international community taking steps to address the human rights violations in the IIOJK, defuse tensions, and facilitate a peaceful solution in accordance with the United Nations Security Council resolutions and wishes of the Kashmiri people.

While highlighting the issue of increasing Islamophobia globally, the foreign secretary expressed the hope that steps would be taken to ensure responsibility while exercising freedom of speech.

He also invited Deputy Secretary General Mora to visit Pakistan as soon as the COVID-19 situation permitted.