Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Friday stressed the need for Pakistan and Turkiye to transform their bilateral ties into a strategic partnership, inviting Ankara to join the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) for regional prosperity.
Shehbaz arrived in Istanbul where he attended the launching ceremony of the third of the four MILGEM Corvette Ships for the Pakistan Navy at the Istanbul Shipyard and addressed a joint press stakeout along with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan following their bilateral talks.
Pakistan, he told the joint news conference, had been “experiencing and enjoying” the benefits of CPEC under the Belt and Road Initiative of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“I would suggest that let this be a cooperation between China, Pakistan and Turkiye,” he added.
“This would be a wonderful joint cooperation. This will bring prosperity and progress to this entire region. This will help alleviate poverty and unemployment. This will certainly empower our poor peoples. This will promote education and health. This is how we can meet the challenges of today.”
The prime minister remarked that he would be “happy” to discuss the matter with the Chinese leadership if Turkiye moved ahead with the idea of joining the CPEC.
He mentioned that in their meeting they underscored the effective implementation of the trade and goods agreement signed in August this year.
At the outset of the media talk, the prime minister conveyed condolences to Turkiye over the loss of life in the recent terror incident in Istanbul, calling for joint efforts to wipe out terrorism in all forms and manifestations, not only from Pakistan and Turkiye but from the whole world.
Referring to the launching ceremony of the Corvette ship, PNS Khyber, Shehbaz said the project was the “manifestation of sincerity, purpose and commitment” to enhance mutual cooperation.
He stressed that “our defence cooperation should meet new challenges” and on a much bigger scale in terms of skills and expertise.
On the occasion, President Erdogan said that both countries were hopeful of further increasing their relations in trade, defence and other sectors.
He fully supported Pakistan’s fight against terrorism and thanked Pakistan for supporting Turkiye against the terrorist act of the Fatih organisation.
He said 2022 marked the celebration of the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations.
Expressing grief over the deaths and destruction caused by floods, the Turkish president said, “Our solidarity has been shown to each other during challenging times … Pakistan’s joy is our joy and their grief is our grief.”
Earlier, while addressing the launching ceremony of PNS Khyber, Shehbaz emphasised that it was high time the two countries transformed their ties into a strategic partnership.
He urged the defence experts from both sides to enhance the defence production capacity to enhance cooperation for peace in the region.
Citing huge potential in the field of alternate energy in both countries, Prime Minister Shehbaz called for Turkiye and Pakistan to join hands for the production of solar, wind and hydel energy to cut carbon emission and open up new avenues of investment cooperation.
Accompanied by the Turkish president, Shehbaz launched PNS Khyber, which, he said, manifested deep bilateral engagement in the defence cooperation.
“The world was envious of the relationship between our two brotherly countries,” Shehbaz added.
He called Turkiye his “second home”, recalling the support extended by the people of Pakistan at the time when Turkiye was fighting for freedom.
“While supporting the Turkish people, our forefathers never knew that Turkiye would stand by Pakistan … instead, they had done so out of their religious brotherhood.”
Earlier, upon his arrival at the venue, the Turkish president welcomed the prime minister and his delegation.
On the occasion, the prime minister was presented the guard of honour while the national anthems of the countries were being played.
The MILGEM project – a joint collaboration between the two countries – represents a significant milestone in the Pakistan-Turkiye strategic partnership.
The launching ceremony for the first Corvette, PNS Babur, was held in Istanbul in August 2021 and the ceremony for the second ship, PNS Badr, was held in Karachi in May 2022.
Shehbaz appreciated the “visionary leadership” of President Erdogan, saying that he had transformed Turkiye into a modern society.
He also spoke highly of the social welfare projects executed by the Turkish government even in far-flung areas besides transforming the agriculture and industrial sectors.
The prime minister appreciated the role of the Turkish president in brokering a deal between Russia and Ukraine for wheat export for the benefit of developing countries like Pakistan.
He also thanked Turkiye for sending timely assistance to Pakistan in the wake of the recent devastating floods in the country.
Premier Shehbaz arrived in Turkiye on Friday on a two-day official visit at the invitation of President Erdogan.
On arrival at the Istanbul International Airport, the prime minister and his high-level delegation were received by the Istanbul deputy governor and senior officials of the government of Turkiye.
After reaching Istanbul, Shehbaz said in a tweet that the ties between Pakistan and Turkiye had entered a new era of strategic partnership under the leadership of President Erdogan. “We are on course to unpack the full untapped potential of the relationship,” he said.
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