TEHRAN, May 11: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and President of Iran Hassan Rouhani on Sunday agreed to continue with the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project as it was beneficial for the peoples of both countries.
During his two-day visit Sharif, who is accompanied by senior advisors, is also expected to meet supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s ultimate authority. During his meeting with President Rouhani, Prime Minister Sharif informed the Iranian president that his government was determined to resolve all the matters which were creating hindrance in the gas pipeline project.
Both leaders reiterated their commitment to enhance the bilateral trade between the two countries during the meeting, held at Saadabad Palace. The border security matters between the two countries also came into discussion. They agreed that better border management and improved security measures would result in increased bilateral trade and strengthening relationship and cooperation between the two countries.
The visit comes amid tensions between the two neighbours following the kidnapping in February of five Iranian soldiers by militants who allegedly took them across the border into Pakistan. Tehran says the soldiers, four of whom returned home after being held for two months, were taken across the border into Pakistan, a claim Islamabad denies. The fate of the fifth soldier is unknown.
His abductors claim to have killed him but it is yet to be officially confirmed. Prime Minister Sharif also said that Islamabad would cooperate with Tehran “to eliminate Jaishul Adl” or Amy of Justice in Arabic, the militant group that had captured the soldiers, IRNA said.
Ties between Islamabad and Tehran have also been strained following the announcement in February by the Sharif government that Pakistan was suspending work on a $7.5-billion pipeline for Iranian gas exports. The work on the Iranian side is almost complete and Tehran expects Pakistan to finish the project on its side. Prime Minister Sharif told the president that there was a lot of scope of increasing trade volume and they wanted to enhance it to new levels of US $5 billion.
He said Pakistan Iran relations were bound by historical and religious linkages. “I am here to open a new chapter in Pakistan-Iran relationships,” he said, adding “As a Prime Minister, I visited Iran firstly in 1999 and have always found the Iranian more affectionate on every visit to Iran.” President Rouhani said Iran-Pakistan relations had historical connections.
Federal Minister for Finance Ishaq Dar, Federal Minister for Petroleum Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Governor Balochistan Mahmood Khan Achakzai, Advisor to PM on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz and Special Assistant to PM Tariq Fatimi were also present during the meeting. The premier told the president that some miscreant elements were trying to sabotage the brotherly relations between the two countries. He vowed to deal with all such elements firmly, stopping them in sabotaging these relations.
Prime Minister Sharif said: “We want security for development and development for security.” President Rouhani also affirmed his government’s support adding that peace in the region was their common goal. He said they would support Pakistan to develop and become more secure. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif extended invitation to President Rouhani to visit Pakistan which was accepted by the president.
Later, the Iranian president hosted a luncheon in honour of the prime minister and the visiting delegation. Earlier upon arrival, the Prime Minister was given a warm welcome at Mehrabad International Airport, where he was received by Minister for Economic Affairs and Finance Ali Tayyabnia. The official welcoming ceremony was held at Saadabad Palace where a smartly turned out contingent presented guard of honour to the prime minister. The premier also held a meeting with the first Vice President of Iran, Eshaq Jehangiri in which matters of mutual and bilateral interest were discussed’–Agencies