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    Tuesday, 13 March 2018

    PM Abbasi, Iran's FM Zarif agree on increasing bilateral trade to $5 billion by 2021

    Pakistan and Iran on Monday vowed to work as one unit and take the existing relationship to new heights.

    Iranian Foreign Minister Jawad Zarif, who is on a three-day visit to Pakistan , held meetings with the Pakistani leaders including Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif.

    During the meetings, the two sides agreed to further enhance bilateral relations in all areas, particularly in political and economic fields and work as one unit.

    Prime Minister Abbasi reaffirmed Pakistan’s desire to enhance mutually-beneficial economic cooperation with Iran including bilateral trade, investments and commercial interaction.

    He said in order to meet the bilateral trade target of $5 billion by 2021, the two sides should work together in all earnest.

    Abbasi emphasised the need to deepen connectivity to harness benefits from regional economic integration.

    He expressed his commitment to work to resolve the issues in implementation of Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline Project including the financing of pipeline infrastructure and the scope of “snap back” clause.

    Ambassador of Iran to Pakistan Mehdi Honardoost and senior officials of Pakistan’s foreign ministry were also present in the meeting.

    Expressing his views, Zarif said that Iran and Pakistan were two important Muslim-majority neighbours in the region so they should strengthen their cooperation on border areas to counter terrorism and drug trafficking.

    Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif said his country also desired close cooperation with Iran for ensuring peace and stability on border regions.

    He said Chabahar and Gwadar ports were not competitors.

    “Both sides during the meeting also discussed peace and stability in Afghanistan, cooperation in energy sector, resumption of banking ties, cooperation between Chabahar and Gwadar ports and activating border markets,” said an official statement.

    In addition, the foreign ministers also stressed the need to provide more facilities for Pakistani pilgrims visiting Iran .

    The two sides agreed to continue engagement for enhancing economic cooperation including bilateral trade, investments and commercial interaction to promote shared prosperity.

    They reiterated their resolve to achieve the target of $5 billion by 2021 through regular exchange of trade delegations, establishing banking channels, holding trade exhibitions and addressing tariff and non-tariff barriers.

    They further resolved to conclude the Free Trade Agreement on priority.

    The foreign ministers underlined that as two neighbouring countries Pakistan and Iran would deepen connectivity between the two sister ports of Gwadar and Chabahar to benefit from their complementarities, said the statement issued by the foreign ministry.

    “Pakistan and Iran strongly condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and appreciated increased cooperation in border security. To facilitate movement of people and goods across the border, it was agreed to expedite operationalisation of two new border crossings,” it added.

    The two foreign ministers also exchanged views on important developments on regional and international peace and security.

    They supported political resolution of the Afghan conflict for durable peace and stability in Afghanistan, and the region, it said. Expressing concerns about growing presence of Daesh in Afghanistan and its implications for regional security, the two sides underlined the need for further cooperation against trans-national terrorist groups. Pakistan and Iran reiterated support for the peaceful struggle of the peoples of Palestine and Kashmir for their right to self determination.  The two countries also emphasised the need for honouring of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action commitments by all parties. Earlier, speaking at the Institute of Strategy Studies to mark 70 years of Pak-Iran diplomatic relations, Foreign Minister Zarif said Pakistan and Iran would move together on the path of peace and prosperity.

    He said the two countries had to further expand and strengthen their relations.

    The Iranian foreign minister said at a time when the region and the Muslims were facing great challenges, Pakistan and Iran had bigger role to play.

    He said the two countries had similar security challenges and they would have to cooperate with each other to tackle them effectively.

    Zarif said Pakistan and Iran were strongly linked with bonds of religion and culture.

    He pointed out that both countries stood with each other during difficult periods.

    The Iranian foreign minister also addressed the Iran-Pakistan Business Conference here, and said despite all hurdles, trade between Iran and Pakistan was improving and last year witnessed growth of 35 per cent in bilateral trade volume.

    He said Iran had entered with its full strength to the arena of relations with Pakistan to boost comprehensive relations in all fields of trade and economics.

    “On the 70th anniversary of Iran-Pakistan diplomatic relations inception, I am so pleased of my presence in a gathering, which can play an important role in enhancement and improvement of economic and trade ties between the two countries,” the Iranian foreign minister said.

    Benefiting of rich cultural, national and religious commonalities accompanied by peaceful, long-lasting ties, he added: “We should activate our economic capacities and potentials to more complement our economies in the fields of business, trade, supplies and requirements provision and tourism industry.”

    The foreign minister said in view of the target set by the high-ranking officials of the two countries in 2016 to extend the level of business transactions up to five billion dollars through five years, two sides should contribute and allocate more efforts to not only realise this highly designated target but surpass it also.

    Zarif said volume of trade between Iran and Pakistan did not commensurate with existing high capacities and potentials, which were even commendably rising.

    “The most important factor in the discussion on economic ties elevation should be establishment of banking connections between the two countries,” he added.

    Zarif reiterated: “We are still ready to supply energy requirements of Pakistan including in the field of oil, gas and electricity at any level of requirement swiftly.”

    In line with fulfilling Iran’s commitments, he said, Tehran had so far spent more than $2 billion to build IP gas pipeline.

    “So we are looking forward to practical steps from our Pakistani friends to act on their commitments in the Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline Agreement,” the foreign minister said.

    Zarif said Iran was ready to join any project including the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, “which brings welfare for the people of our region who has been facing tragedies like imposed wars and sectarian tensions during recent decades.”

    In his speech, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif said Pakistan was committed to expand its deepening economic and commercial interaction with Iran .

    He said the Government of Pakistan in recent years had taken measures to facilitate business contacts with Iran and enhance exchanges in the field of economy and trade.

    Asif added the event was aimed at exploring ways and means for enhancing bilateral trade and economic interaction between Iran and Pakistan to promote mutual prosperity.

    He said: “I am confident that this interaction will provide useful guidance to both governments for increasing mutually-beneficial economic and commercial interaction between economic and business entities of the two countries.”

    Asif said that Pakistan and Iran were two brotherly neighbouring countries with centuries-old ties and that around 1,000 kilometres long border between them was the border of peace and friendship and offers immense opportunities for profitable trade and economic exchanges between the people living on both sides of the border.

    He said three areas were significant, one improving the environment for undertaking business between Iran and Pakistan , two increasing bilateral economic and trade exchanges and deepening connectivity.

    Asif said: “‘Pakistan has taken several measures to facilitate business contacts with Iran and the bilateral trade has demonstrated a consistent growth in [the] past two years. Today, the bilateral trade has crossed a billion dollar mark and prospects for further growth remain very bright.”

    The minister said Pakistan and Iran should continue “our mutual efforts for achieving the target set by the two sides of five billion dollars annual trade by 2021. We are focusing on addressing the impediments in trading activities.”

    He said that early conclusion of the FTA would be beneficial for both the countries and a concerted effort was required for addressing non-tariff barriers, which continued to hamper export of many items.

    Asif said that State Bank of Pakistan and Bank Melli of Iran could find a way of implementation of banking and payment arrangement.
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