Decision on pipeline in 90 days, says Iran: Aziz, Ahmadinejad meet in Baku

top01.jpgBAKU (Azerbaijan), May 4: Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz on Thursday held in-depth discussions with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad covering the gas pipeline project, Iran’s nuclear issue, situation in the region and bilateral matters.

The two leaders who are in Baku to attend the 9th session of the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) Summit, in more than an hour-long meeting focused on the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project and Iran’s nuclear issue.

The Iranian president said a “final decision” on the $7.2 billion gas pipeline will be taken within 90 days and hoped some “positive outcome” within the stipulated time.

TIES WITH AZERBAIJAN: Prime Minister Aziz earlier discussed economic and political ties between Pakistan and Azerbaijan with Azeri President Ilham Aliyev with the two sides agreeing to expand these into stronger multifaceted relations.

The prime minister met President Aliyev at his presidential palace and discussed a wide range of issues.

He extended Pakistan’s full support to the stand of Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. “We fully and completely support the stand of Azerbaijan as it is just and fair, and we will continue to do so,” he said.

The prime minister gave President Aliyev an overview of Pakistan’s economic progress and said extensive reforms were paying dividend as all sectors were rapidly showing results.

He informed the Azerbaijan president about progress in the Pakistan-India dialogue and said Islamabad wanted resolution of all outstanding issues, including Jammu and Kashmir, through negotiations.

He said the process was being seriously pursued by Pakistan as it believed that resolution of Kashmir was vital for lasting peace in the region.

He said Pakistan desired a solution in accordance with the wishes of the people of Kashmir and it wanted to move to the stage of conflict resolution rather than lingering at conflict management.

He thanked President Aliyev for his country’s consistent and principled support to Pakistan on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir.

On the Iranian nuclear issue, the prime minister said Pakistan believed in a negotiated settlement, as it was against use of force.

He said Pakistan believed in peaceful use of nuclear power for energy under the International Atomic Energy Agency’s safeguards.

About growing economic cooperation with Kabul, Prime Minister Aziz said Pakistan believed in a strong and stable Afghanistan as it was in the best interest of the country. He said Pakistan was hosting over three million Afghan refugees. He said trade between the two countries had expanded from $25 million to over $1.5 billion and was a source of strength for both their economies.

He said Pakistan and Azerbaijan were bound in strong historical and cultural links and there was a need to translate these into wider economic, defence, security and political ties.

Earlier, Azerbaijan Defence and Industries Minister Yawar Jamalof called on the prime minister and discussed measures to widen scope of defence relations between the two countries.

The prime minister Aziz said Pakistan was keen to have stronger defence ties with Azerbaijan and the two countries needed to collaborate and develop synergizes in the sector.

He invited the minister to visit Pakistan.

The defence minister said Azerbaijan had a highly developed machine building industry that was also geared to manufacture defence equipment.

FOREIGN MINISTER: Foreign Minister Khurshid M. Kasuri and his Azeri counterpart Elmar Mammadayarov have agreed on the need to boost ties between Pakistan and Azerbaijan in economic and defence sectors.

The two foreign ministers met in Azerbaijan’s capital of Baku on Wednesday on the sidelines of a meeting of the Council of Ministers of Economic Cooperation Organization countries to review bilateral ties and exchange views on regional and international issues.

The meeting of the Council of Ministers was held on the eve the ECO Summit.

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz is representing Pakistan at the two-day conference of the 10-member organization.

Mr Kasuri and his Azeri counterpart reviewed bilateral relations and discussed regional as well as international issues of current interest.

It was agreed that interaction between business communities of the two countries would be encouraged. Visa procedures for businessmen would be simplified to that end.

They discussed defence equipment manufactured in Pakistan and training facilities available at Pakistani defence institutions. An Azeri defence team will visit Pakistan shortly to carry forward discussion on the subject.—APP

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