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Pakistan, Turkey, Azerbaijan resolve to enhance cooperation, continue mutual support on national issues

Published 13 Jan,2021 via Dawn - Pakistan, Turkey and Azerbaijan on Wednesday agreed to strengthen cooperation in diverse fields and people-to-people ties, as well as continue to support each other on all issues involving the three countries' national interests.

The understanding was reached between the foreign ministers of the three nations at the second Pakistan-Turkey-Azerbaijan trilateral meeting, hosted by Islamabad.

Speaking at a joint press conference after the meeting, titled 'Islamabad Declaration', Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi reiterated the brotherly relations of Pakistan with Turkey and Azerbaijan, saying the three countries had resolved to enhance cooperation amongst them.

He said the ministers had exchanged views on trade, investment, people-to-people relations, security and other subjects. They also discussed how to deal with common challenges such as the coronavirus pandemic and Islamophobia, as well as human rights violations against Muslim minorities across the region.

"We want to enhance [our] linkages through parliamentary exchanges, enhanced media interaction and collaboration between our think tanks, artists and tourists," Qureshi said, adding that his Turkish and Azeri counterparts had appreciated Pakistan's role in the Afghan peace process.

"We reiterated our determination to support one another on all issues of our core national interests," he added.

The foreign minister said the people of Pakistan and Kashmiris remained "profoundly grateful" to Turkey and Azerbaijan for their "principled and steadfast support" on the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. He said he had informed the ministers about the evolving situation and the "dire situation of human rights violations" in Indian-occupied Kashmir, including the prolonged military siege and "deliberate, unilateral and illegal actions" to make demographic changes in the valley.

Qureshi also reiterated Pakistan's resolute support for efforts towards a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus issue on the basis of "political equality of the two communities". He said Pakistan had consistently called for the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions.

"We exchanged views on how to increase cooperation to combat all forms of terrorism including terrorism sponsored by foreign states," he told the presser.

He said the Turkish and Azerbaijani ministers were also briefed on "state-sponsored terrorism in our region in an attempt to destabilise Pakistan", as well as the anti-Pakistan Indian disinformation campaign exposed by EU Disinfo Lab.

Qureshi said the meeting had agreed that "all regional and global issues must be resolved through dialogue and peaceful means within the framework of international law."

'Strong cooperation'

In his remarks, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov thanked Pakistan and Turkey for supporting Baku during the second Karabakh war and for condemning "Armenian occupation and war crimes".

"They raised their voices in the international arena to restore justice and we highly appreciate this principled position by Turkey and Pakistan," he said.

Bayramov said the three nations shared very strong bonds, the most important of which was a common vision and a "solid foundation for growing cooperation".

"They believe in strong cooperation on sovereign policy. We condemn aggression and terrorism, and reject Islamophobia," he added.

Noting that the three countries are located on ancient trade routes, he said cooperation between them will create jobs and contribute to raising the quality of life.

Bayramov invited Turkish and Pakistani companies to participate in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of "lands freed from Armenian occupation", saying "we will be glad of your cooperation to bring this land back to life."

Enhancing trade potential

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said he was very pleased to visit "brother Pakistan once again", and thanked Qureshi for organising a successful trilateral meeting.

"Pakistan has a unique place in our hearts and we support each other in difficult times and the help during the pandemic is an example," the Turkish minister said, adding that his country wanted to hold the seventh meeting of the high-level strategic council in Turkey.

He noted that the trade volume between Pakistan and Turkey was around $800 million. "Obviously it doesn't reflect the true potential of both the countries so we want to bring dynamism in our economic cooperation," he said.

"The strategic framework signed by President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan and Prime Minister [Imran] Khan during the previous meeting in Islamabad provides the necessary roadmap. We are happy to see Turkish investors in Pakistan and we are encouraging [them] to increase their investment. There are around 100 Turkish companies active and we are expanding our cooperation in the defence industry as well," he added.

On the subject of cooperation for educational opportunities, Cavusoglu lauded the fact that 83 Pak-Turk Maarif schools were operating in Pakistan. He announced that the Turkish Maarif Foundation will set up more schools and a university in Pakistan.

"We agreed to continue working together to advance security, stability and prosperity," he said of the trilateral meeting.

He said the three ministers had underlined the importance of connectivity and developing an infrastructure for transport and discussed a joint response to regional developments including regarding Kashmir, Nagorno-Karabakh, Cyprus, the Mediterranean and situation in Afghanistan.

"We express our full support with Kashmiri brothers in the face of worsening human rights situation and demographic change especially during the last two years," the Turkish foreign minister said.

"We believe unilateral steps complicate the situation further and reaffirm our concerns and expectations which were also recently addressed in the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) meeting in Niger," he added, stressing the use of dialogue to resolve issues in accordance with relevant UNSC resolutions.

Cavusoglu appreciated Pakistan's support to Azerbaijan to "liberate their territories", saying Turkey hoped that Armenia "seizes the opportunity for lasting peace".

The Turkish minister said he was honoured to be conferred the Hilal-i-Pakistan by President Dr Arif Alvi, terming it a sign of the countries' friendship. He concluded with: "Turkey-Pakistan-Azerbaijan dosti zindabad!"

Trilateral meet

The Turkish foreign minister had arrived in Pakistan on Tuesday night while the Azeri minister landed today. The first trilateral meeting between the three countries was held in Baku in 2017.

The foreign ministers were expected to discuss various issues including "new and emerging threats to regional peace and security", challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change. The three sides were also to discuss measures that should be taken to achieve development targets, an earlier statement by the FO had said.

Additionally, the three countries were to explore possibilities of deepening trilateral cooperation in all areas of common interest, including peace and security, trade and investment, science and technology, education and cultural cooperation, it added.

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