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'It was planned': Pak FM justifies PM's Russia visit amid Ukraine crisis

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that the latest situation didn't come up in a day but was a result of an evolving crisis over a period of time, and the visit was not related to the Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Pakistans Prime Minister Imran Khan during a meeting in Moscow (Photo: Reuters)

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Pakistans Prime Minister Imran Khan during a meeting in Moscow

Press Trust of India Islamabad
Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Friday justified Prime Minister Imran Khan's maiden visit to Russia amidst Moscow's military operation in eastern Ukraine, saying it was a bilateral visit planned well ahead of the start of the conflict.
Khan, who arrived in Russia on Wednesday on a two-day visit - the first by a Pakistani premier in over two decades. This was the first face-to-face talks of Russian President Vladimir Putin with a foreign leader since he ordered a special military operation against Ukraine on Thursday.
We held consultations before the visit and looked at its pros and cons, and decided to go ahead as it was a bilateral visit. We had clarity about it, Qureshi, who was also part of the delegation accompanying Prime Minister Khan to Moscow, said here.
He rejected the impression that the visit was not well-timed given the situation in Ukraine and stressed that it was the right decision, which has increased the diplomatic space of Pakistan.
Qureshi said that the latest situation didn't come up in a day but was a result of an evolving crisis over a period of time, and the visit was not related to the Ukraine conflict.
It (visit) should be seen in the context of the trajectory of ties with Russia, which have been improving and the focus is bilateral, he said.
Qureshi also revealed that a high level contact was made by the US with Pakistan before the key visit to Moscow.
They made an innocent question' and we gave a civilised answer' (about the visit), he said in a lighter tone.
He elaborated that Pakistan conveyed its point of view to the US side about the purpose of the visit.
Qureshi said that the Pakistani embassy in Ukraine had been shifted from Kyiv due to the prevailing security situation and at the moment was operational from Ternopil. He said about 600 students were still in Ukraine and efforts were being made to protect them and help them to leave.
To questions about the impact of sanctions on Russia's planned investment in Pakistan, including the Pakistan-Stream Gas Pipeline that Moscow was interested to build, Qureshi said that sanctions were being imposed and Pakistan was aware of their impact.
We will assess the sanctions and decide about the gas pipeline and other projects, he said.
He said talks were held on the gas pipeline and almost all issues have been resolved. Soon, another meeting would be held on it and hopefully we will clinch it.
Qureshi said that Russia is also very keen to set up an LNG terminal in Gwadar and we will welcome it.
He said that the Russian investors have expressed interest to attend the investment conference to be held next month in Islamabad.
He said Pakistan's shift to geo-economics and regional connectivity will get impetus through enhanced relations with Russia.
He said Pakistan desires to import gas from Russia.
We are an energy deficient country and want a long term government to government arrangement with Russia on this matter, he said.
He said the extension of the Russian pipeline in Kazakhstan to Pakistan via Afghanistan will help meet our future energy requirements.
He said that Prime Minister Khan, in meeting with Putin, presented Pakistan's view point on the evolving situation in Ukraine, while Putin put forward his views.
Qureshi said the regional situation also came under discussion during the talks with the Russian leadership. He said both the countries want peace and stability in Afghanistan.
Qureshi said at least 600 army personnel have visited Russia in the recent year for the purpose of training and attended seminars.
To a question, he said that Pakistan discussed the FATF grey list issue with the Russians leader.
Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in June retained Pakistan on its 'grey list' for failing to check money laundering, leading to terror financing, and asked Islamabad to investigate and prosecute senior leaders and commanders of UN-designated terror groups, including Hafiz Saeed and Masood Azhar.
I discussed it with Sergey Lavorv. I updated him about steps taken by Pakistan, which are unprecedented, he said, adding that Lavrov appreciated and said FATF was a technical forum and should not be used for political purposes.
Russia will not be part of any such effort (to use this forum for political reasons), Qureshi quoted Lavrov as saying in the meeting.
Qureshi said that Pakistan was following an independent foreign policy as politics of being part of a group did a lot of damage to it.
He said Pakistan desired relationships with all the countries and was not and would not become part of any bloc politics.
We are not part of any camp politics. We paid a heavy price. Now we will cultivate ties with every country independent of others, he said.
Pakistan's ties with Russia have moved past the bitter Cold War hostilities in recent years and the chill in the relations between Pakistan and the US has further pushed the country towards Russia and China.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Feb 25 2022 | 8:41 PM IST

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