Russia’s Putin, PM Imran discuss Afghanistan, bilateral ties in 2nd call in a month

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Prime Minister Imran Khan and Russian President Vladimir Putin exchanged views on the latest developments in Afghanistan and bilateral cooperation in a phone call on Tuesday — the second between the two leaders in less than a month.

Recalling their earlier telephone conversation of August 25, the two leaders also discussed collaboration within the domain of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office said.

Prime Minister Imran, who like last month was called by Putin, underscored the importance of peace and stability in Afghanistan for regional security and prosperity. He emphasised the “urgent need” to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan and the imperative of averting an economic crisis, according to the press release.

The premier also highlighted the need for the international community to remain engaged in Afghanistan, saying “the Afghan people should not be abandoned at this crucial juncture.”

He added that close coordination and consultations between Pakistan and Russia on the evolving situation in the war-ravaged country were of “crucial importance”.

In the bilateral context, Prime Minister Imran noted the growing cooperation across a range of sectors and reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to “further upgrade the overall relationship”. He said strengthening trade and investments and energy cooperation were the cornerstones of engagement with Russia.

The premier also reaffirmed the government’s resolve for early realisation of the Pakistan Stream Gas Pipeline Project, the PMO said.

He reiterated his invitation to President Putin to visit Pakistan, while Putin renewed his invitation to Prime Minister Imran to undertake a visit to Russia.

“Relations between Pakistan and Russia have been on an upward trajectory, propelled by converging views on important regional and international issues, growing trust, and increasing bilateral cooperation manifested by recent high-level interactions,” the statement added.

The two leaders agreed to remain in close contact.

In their last call, Prime Minister Imran had stressed the importance of adopting coordinated approaches to address the evolving situation in Afghanistan, saying that Pakistan gave “high importance” to the role of the Troika Plus format.

In July, amid reports that Putin was going to visit Pakistan, the Foreign Office spokesperson had clarified that while “invitations for visits at the summit level have been extended by both sides”, no visit of the Russian president was scheduled.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited Islamabad in April this year, and Pakistan’s foreign and defence ministers visited Russia last year.

Lavrov’s two-day trip to Pakistan was the first visit by a Russian foreign minister in nine years, part of a warming in once-frosty relations.

During his trip to Islamabad, the Russian foreign minister had remarked in a statement: “We stand ready to strengthen the anti-terrorist potential of Pakistan, including by supplying Pakistan with special military equipment.”

Lavrov had said an agreement was also reached on conducting additional joint military exercises such as the Arabian Monsoon maritime drill.

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