Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood has underscored the importance of mutually-beneficial Generalised System of Preferences (GSP)-Plus status granted by the European Union (EU), and reiterated the government’s commitment to implementing the 27 UN conventions related to the scheme.
Secretary Mahmood led the Pakistan delegation at the 6th Round of Political Dialogue with the EU on Tuesday. The EU side was led by Enrique Mora, Deputy Secretary General of European External Action Service (EEAS), the Foreign Office said in a statement on Wednesday.
The dialogue was held virtually and it covered a broad-ranging agenda, including bilateral matters and regional and international issues. The sixth round was first political dialogue since the signing of the Pakistan-EU Strategic Engagement Plan (SEP) in June 2019.
During the discussion, Secretary Mahmood emphasised the importance Pakistan attached to the EU as a key international partner and emphasised the positive trends on the political and economic areas, the Foreign Office statement said.
He underscored Pakistan’s desire to further expand the existing collaboration, especially in trade, investment, education, science and technology, people-to-people contacts, human rights and development cooperation, it added.
“The foreign secretary underlined that the government attached great importance to upholding human rights besides Pakistan’s commitment towards implementation of the 27 UN Conventions related to the GSP-Plus scheme,” the statement read.
He highlighted Pakistan’s contribution to counter terrorism and stem illegal migration and called for opening new channels of legal migration. He also underlined the importance of strategic dialogue at the foreign ministerial level and summit level talks to consolidate bilateral ties.
In the context of Covid-19, the foreign secretary highlighted the steps taken by Pakistan to minimise the adverse effects of the pandemic on lives and livelihood of the people and the overall national economy.
He underscored that the ‘smart lockdown’ strategy adopted by the government paid dividends and Pakistan was being acknowledged by the international community including WHO as a ‘success story’.
Secretary Mahmood noted that Covid-19 had had a detrimental effect on the world trade, including Pakistan’s exports to the EU but expressed the hope that the two sides could work together to increase trade in diverse fields.
The foreign secretary highlighted Pakistan’s positive contributions to the Afghan peace process. He underscored the importance of international community’s close economic engagement with Afghanistan to pave the way for the return of Afghan refugees to their homeland.
He also apprised the EU delegation of dire human rights and humanitarian situation in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), illegal measures to change the demographic structure of the occupied territory, and the threat to peace and security posed by India’s actions.
He underscored the importance of the international community taking steps to address the violations of human rights in IIOJK, defuse tensions, and facilitate a peaceful solution in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions and wishes of the Kashmiri people.
While highlighting the issue of increasing Islamophobia globally, the foreign secretary expressed the hope that steps would be taken to ensure responsibility while exercising freedom of speech.
It was agreed to strengthen Pakistan-EU engagement at multiple levels. The foreign secretary invited Deputy Secretary General Mora to visit Pakistan as soon as the Covid-19 situation permitted.