Prime Minister Imran Khan and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday held a telephonic conversation to discuss a range of issues, including Afghanistan, ahead of their likely face-to-face meeting in Beijing next month.
This was the second telephonic conversation between the two leaders in four months. In September last year, the two leaders had exchanged views by telephone after the Afghan Taliban took control of Kabul in August in the wake of the chaotic exit of the US-led foreign forces from Afghanistan. Moscow and Islamabad share a common view on Afghanistan as they have long buried the Cold War rivalry and now have been making efforts to deepen their cooperation. Both the countries favour continued engagement with the interim Taliban government while at the same time asking the US to lift economic sanctions against the war-torn country.
Just spoke to President Putin primarily to express my appreciation for his emphatic statement that freedom of speech could not be a pretext to abuse our Prophet PBUH. He is the first Western leader to show empathy & sensitivity to Muslim sentiment for their beloved Prophet PBUH— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) January 17, 2022
In their latest telephonic conversation, Prime Minister Imran and President Putin discussed Afghanistan. An official handout issued by the PM Office said Premier Imran stressed that a “peaceful and stable Afghanistan” was pivotal for regional stability.“Afghanistan is facing dire humanitarian and economic challenges and support of the international community to the people of Afghanistan at this critical juncture remains vitally important,” the prime minister told the Russian president.
The premier also underscored the importance of releasing Afghanistan’s financial assets in order to fulfil the basic needs of the Afghan people. Both the leaders agreed to enhance bilateral cooperation in different areas, increase high-level exchanges, and remain in close contact on matters relating to Afghanistan. The prime minister underscored that Pakistan’s bilateral relations with Russia were on an upward trajectory, with an increased focus on trade and economic ties and energy cooperation. He reiterated his government’s resolve for early realisation of the Pakistan Stream Gas Pipeline project.
Prime Minister Imran also appreciated President’s Putin statement that insulting Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) did not count as an expression of artistic freedom but is a "violation of religious freedom". “The prime minister stated that he has been regularly highlighting the appalling rise in Islamophobia and associated hatred in his addresses to the UN General Assembly, pointing towards its serious ramifications,” according to the official handout.
The prime minister said that he looked forward to President Putin’s visit to Pakistan as well as his own visit to Russia at an appropriate time. In a separate statement issued by Kremlin, Moscow said the discussion focused on the development of Russian-Pakistani ties in different areas, including trade, economy, energy and the humanitarian sphere, as well as combating the spread of the coronavirus infection.
We also discussed ways to move forward on trade and other mutually beneficial cooperation between our two countries. We invited each other to visit our countries.— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) January 17, 2022
It noted that Prime Minister Imran underscored the broad support in the Muslim world – Pakistani society in particular – for the Russian president’s statements made at his annual news conference held on December 23, 2021, on the inadmissibility of any actions, under the pretext of freedom of expression, impairing the dignity of any religious, ethnic or social group. “In this context Vladimir Putin mentioned that historically, the Russian Federation has been a multi-ethnic and multi-religious state, where peoples practicing different religions, including Islam, traditionally co-exist and interact,” according to the Presidential Executive Office of Russia.
The two leaders are expected to meet on the sidelines of the Winter Olympics to be hosted by China in the first week of February. Chinese President Xi Jinping invited Prime Minister Imran and Russian President Putin to the opening ceremony in Beijing. The US and other western countries refused to send official delegations to the opening ceremony as a protest over the alleged human rights violations by China.
This will make the presence of Russian and Pakistani leaders at the opening ceremony more significant. The Foreign Office here already confirmed that the prime minister would attend the ceremony in Beijing.
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