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Next SAARC summit to take place in Pak, dates to be proposed soon: Qureshi


The next South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit is scheduled to take place in Pakistan's capital Islamabad and dates will be proposed soon, said the country's foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Thursday.
"The SAARC summit was supposed to take place in Islamabad in 2016...However, the last meeting did not happen due to some reasons. I had extended an invitation last year that this is a forum where disputes concerning all member countries can be solved. Pakistan was ready to host the summit but due to obstacles, talks could not go ahead," he told reporters after attending the SAARC Foreign Ministers' meet on the sidelines of UN General Assembly here.
Qureshi asserted that no SAARC member states "objected" to the next meet being held in Pakistan.
"I invited all member states to Islamabad so that SAARC-related issues are resolved. No one objected to it. It has been decided that the next summit-level meeting of SAARC will be held in Islamabad and Pakistan will propose the dates soon," he said.
Asked whether India did not object to the proposal, Qureshi said, "India expressed dissent last year but they remained silent this year. No member countries have objected.
Replying to another query on whether India will attend the SAARC summit in Pakistan, the minister said, "We will extend an invitation to all the SAARC countries. Those who think who are not a part of this forum, it's their call."
Earlier in the day, the SAARC Foreign Ministers' meet saw high-voltage drama with Qureshi first holding up the meeting and then refusing to attend the conference until Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar finished his statement.
Responding to Pakistan's disruption of the meeting, Jaishankar left after addressed the gathering which included leaders and representatives from the regional organisation.
It was only after Jaishankar left that Qureshi made an entrance at least half an hour after the meeting commenced.
The 18th SAARC summit was held in Kathmandu in 2014 and Pakistan was to host the next summit in 2016. However, the summit was cancelled after India boycotted the meeting, in the wake of the terror attack at a military base in Uri in Jammu and Kashmir, which killed 19 soldiers.
Other countries, including Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan, also walked out following India's decision to exit the summit to step up diplomatic pressure on Pakistan.
India, the largest member of the SAARC forum, has maintained it will participate in future summits if Pakistan took stringent steps to tackle terror emanating from its soil.
Pakistan unilaterally downgraded diplomatic ties with India following the abrogation of Article 370, even as New Delhi clearly outlined that its move in Jammu and Kashmir is entirely a matter of its internal affairs.
Even as all efforts by Pakistan to make an issue out of India's decision in Kashmir have failed, Islamabad has vowed to bring up the topic during Prime Minister Imran Khan's UN General Assembly speech on Friday.

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First Published: Sep 27 2019 | 12:56 AM IST

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