ISLAMABAD: At a time when the region is undergoing a transformation with new alliances, Pakistan and Turkey on Wednesday agreed to deepen their defense cooperation and stressed the need for the early implementation of the “Pakistan-Turkey Strategic Economic Framework”.
The agreement was the main highlight of Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s full range of engagements in Islamabad, where he held formal talks with his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi, called on Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Arif Alvi. He also attended a trilateral meeting with Foreign Minister Qureshi and Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan Jeyhun Bayramov highlighting the close cooperation among the three countries, which backed each other on their respective core issues.
This was the third visit of the Turkish top diplomat in as many years and suggested the deepening ties between the two countries. Pakistan and Turkey historically have enjoyed close cooperation but the recent regional developments further brought the two countries closer.
The visit was also part of the preparation of next session of High level Strategic Council between the two countries. Turkey only has such a dialogue with a handful of countries and Pakistan is one of them.
Similarly, the two countries have Pak-Turkey Strategic Economic Framework aimed to boost trade and commercial ties. A senior official in Islamabad said that there were 71 items under this framework where the two countries have been working to improve their trade ties.
The bilateral trade between the two countries stood at around $800 million which according to the Turkish foreign minister did not reflect the close ties between the two countries.
Mevlut Cavusoglu, flanked by his Pakistani and Azerbaijani counterparts, told a news conference that Ankara would deepen its defense cooperation with Pakistan, which also conferred its highest civilian award to the visiting Turkish diplomat.
The Turkish foreign minister said on Wednesday he discussed a 71-point road map with the Pakistani officials and said, “We will strengthen our bilateral relations”.
He said both countries will bring bilateral trade up to its true potential and “we will develop cooperation in the defense industry as well”.
Cavusoglu also signed a deal with the Pakistani officials to increase cooperation in education sector while their agreements in the fields of military and tourism signed last year also took effect.
Turkey and Azerbaijan have been the vocal supporters of Pakistan on the longstanding issue of Kashmir dispute with India. Both these countries are also part of the OIC Contact Group on Kashmir which time to time issues strong statements on Kashmir.
During today’s joint news conference, both Turkish and Azerbaijani top diplomats backed Pakistan on the issue of Kashmir and denounced India for committing human rights abuses. They called for the political settlement of the dispute in line with UNSC resolutions.
In return, Foreign Minister Qureshi backed Turkey on the issue of northern Cyprus while putting Pakistan’s weight behind Azerbaijan over its recent conflict with Armenia on Nagrono Karabagh.
The Azerbaijani foreign minister said the people and government of Azerbaijan were thankful to Pakistan for standing alongside with their country in their time of need. He said people waved the Pakistani and Turkish flags during the victory parade in Baku.
The trilateral meeting, second between the three countries, concluded with the Islamabad Declaration. The Declaration called for enhancing trade, commercial, business and strategic ties among the three countries. All the three countries decided to support each on the issue of their core national interests.
Foreign Minister Qureshi said they had decided to make the trilateral framework as a regular feature. He said the trilateral meeting would now take place regularly. The next meeting will be hosted by Turkey, he added.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan emphasised the importance of working to combat Islamophobia and promote better understanding of the reverence Muslims have for the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him).
During meeting with Foreign Minister Cavusoglu, Pakistan-Turkey bilateral relations and regional and international issues were discussed.
Reaffirming the exceptional nature of Pakistan-Turkey political relationship, the prime minister stressed the importance of transforming it into a robust economic partnership.
The shared resolve on both sides to further upgrade trade, investment, defense, educational and cultural cooperation was also reaffirmed.
Prime Minister Imran thanked Turkey for its steadfast support on the Kashmir dispute and highlighted the detrimental Indian actions posing a threat to peace and security.
In the regional context, the premier underscored the importance Pakistan attaches to a peaceful solution to the conflict in Afghanistan. It was agreed to maintain high-level exchanges and further build Pakistan-Turkey strategic relationships to the mutual benefit of the two countries and peoples.