Diplomatic (Pakistan, Australia agree to consolidate bilateral ties)

Islamabad: Pakistan has asked Australia to provide greater market access to its products in the Australian market.

Advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz made the proposal during his talks with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop in Islamabad Wednesday.

Both the sides agreed to further strengthen their relations in diverse fields including trade and economy.

Later, addressing a joint news conference along with Australian counterpart, Advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said Pakistan and Australia enjoy excellent relations, which are based on mutual respect and shared interests.

He said the two sides have agreed to further consolidate the existing friendly people to people contacts, underpinned by the presence of eighty thousand strong Pakistani diaspora and around thirteen thousand Pakistani students in Australia.

He said our talks focused on the need for regular political exchanges between the two countries including high level visits. We feel that exchange of parliamentary visits is important. He said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will visit Australia this year or early next year.

Appreciating Australian development cooperation programme for Pakistan, Sartaj Aziz said Pakistan intends to strengthen interaction with Australia in agriculture, livestock and water resource management. We want both the countries to focus more on sports and culture.

The Advisor said both the countries share common perceptions in combating terrorism. He said we have resolved to continue our cooperation in countering terrorism and transnational crimes.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said his country attaches great importance to its bilateral relations with Pakistan. “We have long been friends and want to diversify cooperation in different fields.”

She said her country has strong and long standing defense relations with Pakistan. “We have common interests in countering transnational crimes including drug and human smuggling.”

About Australian development assistance to Pakistan, she said during her visit she will announce an assistance package of 24 million Australian dollars for Pakistan. She said that 19.9 million dollars which is part of this package will be given to Pakistan’s efforts for facilitating regional trade and investment as well as for the rehabilitation of country’s border areas.

Responding to a question, the Australian foreign minister recognized the sacrifices rendered by Pakistan in the war on terror. She said under a plan her country is sending Australian students to different countries including Pakistan.

These visits of our students will give a message to the world that Pakistan is a place to visit. She said his country wants a peaceful and safe Pakistan.

She said it is vital for the region that both Pakistan and Afghanistan work together to manage the porous border and effectively fight the menace of terrorism.

Voicing concerns over the rise of terror outfit Daish, the Australian Foreign Minister described the outfit as more dangerous and brutal. She said her country is working with the international community to fight such terror outfits. She said her country is also hosting a summit in June on countering extremism.

When asked about Australian-India civil nuclear cooperation, the Australian Foreign Minister pointed out that her country is a power house and want to export energy to the world. She said currently both Australia and India are negotiating the deal. She however said her country will extend the facility to India under strict controls.

On the issue of Kashmir dispute, Julie Bishop admitted the issue needs to be resolved. She said her country will encourage both Pakistan and India to resolve the dispute through negotiations.

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