ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday continued its diplomatic outreach to the developed countries, seeking their support for debt rescheduling and economic assistance for the developing nations in view of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi telephoned his Italian counterpart Luigi Di Maio on COVID-19 threat and also sought his country's help for debt rescheduling. Earlier, Qureshi had also spoken to foreign ministers of Germany, France and others on this matter.
Italy has been battling with the coronavirus, recording the highest death toll in the world from the pandemic. The country’s death toll surpassed that of China, where the deadly virus first broke out in December last year.
"Expressing deep sorrow and grief over the tragic loss of life, the foreign minister lauded the courage and heroism of Italian healthcare providers, and affirmed Pakistan’s unwavering solidarity with Italy at this difficult time,” said a statement issued here by the Foreign Office. “He thanked the Italian authorities for looking after the Pakistani community in Italy," it added.
In view of the imminent economic difficulties, the statement said, Qureshi reiterated Prime Minister Imran Khan’s call for debt relief and restructuring for the developing states, as a means to enable them to divert resources to save lives and shore up economies.
He expressed the hope that Italy, as an important member of the EU, the G-7, and the G-20 would take up this matter at their summit.
Qureshi further highlighted Pakistan’s continued concern over the lockdown in Indian Occupied Kashmir – now approaching eight months—which was preventing dissemination of information and distribution of medical and other essential supplies, needed to effectively combat the disease. He stressed the need for a unified call to end all restrictions in occupied Kashmir, the statement said.
Foreign Minister Di Maio thanked Qureshi for the call. The two ministers also exchanged views on the best way forward to address the pandemic, and agreed to remain engaged in the matter.
Prime Minister Imran has been pushing for debt relief for the developing countries. Recently, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank also called on powerful nations to consider rescheduling of the bilateral debt to allow poor countries to deal with the fallout of the coronavirus.
At news conference, Foreign Office spokesperson Aisha Farooqui said that the Prime minister's call for debt rescheduling and economic assistance for developing countries was getting traction in the world.
The spokesperson said that the US had provided $1 million to Pakistan to fight the coronavirus. She added that China had also been providing assistance to Pakistan for this purpose.
When asked what steps Pakistan was taking to bring back its nationals stranded in other countries, Farooqui said the government was exploring best possible options for the safety and repatriation of the Pakistani citizens in different parts of the world.
"Travel restrictions in Wuhan are reportedly being lifted from 8th April. This can pave the way for our nationals to make their further plans in light of the guidelines issued by the governments on both sides," she added.
The spokesperson also said Pakistan wanted the international community particularly the US to lift economic sanctions on Iran in the wake of COVID-19.