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The Norwegian Foreign Minister, Mr. Jonas Gahr Store met with Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi at the Foreign Office today. They discussed in detail a wide range of bilateral and regional issues.

Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir and the Ambassador of Norway in Pakistan, H.E. Mr. Robert Kvile also attended the meeting.

On bilateral relations, the two Foreign Ministers complimented the contributions being made by the Pakistani Diaspora in Norway in the country’s development and promoting inter-cultural harmony. The Norwegian Foreign Minister said that the fact that the incumbent Deputy Speaker of Norwegian Parliament was of Pakistan origin demonstrated Norway’s ethnic diversity as well as opportunities for all.

Foreign Minister Qureshi said that Pakistan and Norway had abundant opportunities to strengthen relations in all areas of life. In this regard, while appreciating Norway’s development assistance to Pakistan, the Foreign Minister said that the current level of bilateral trade (close to 120 million) did not represent the vast potential that existed between the two countries. He said that lifting of ban on the import of fisheries by the European Union from Pakistan, would also help greatly enhance Pakistan’s exports of fisheries to Norway.

Foreign Minister Qureshi said that Pakistan offered multiple foreign investment opportunities and that the investment experience of one of the Norwegian telecommunication companies in Pakistan had shown how lucrative the Pakistani market was. The Foreign Minister also thanked the Norwegian Foreign Minister for his country’s valuable support to Pakistan within the framework of the Friends of Democratic of Pakistan.

The Foreign Minister of Norway proposed to hold the next Annual Bilateral Consultations in Islamabad later this year. The previous round of bilateral consultations was held in Oslo in January 2009.

Regarding terrorism, Foreign Minister Qureshi underlined the need for speeding up the process of reconstruction and development in the Malakand region and FATA in order to achieve a decisive victory against militants and violent extremists. He said Pakistan’s strategy of clearing, holding and building the violence-affected areas was being pursued most vigorously. There was nonetheless the need for international assistance and support to build these areas as time was of the essence. Pakistan could not afford the efforts aimed at winning heats and mind to unravel at this critical stage.

The Foreign Minister also conveyed to his Norwegian counterpart the sentiments of the people of Pakistan and the Muslim world at large about the reproduction of blasphemous cartoons in Norway, underlining that the freedom of expression was not absolute and had to be based on respect for each other’s religious feelings and sensitivities.

Briefing the Norwegian Foreign Minister on Afghanistan, Foreign Minister Qureshi said that Afghanistan was Pakistan’s immediate neighbour and their bilateral relations had improved significantly since the signing of the Joint Declaration on 6 January 2009. Pakistan was extensively engaged in the reconstruction and development work in Afghanistan.

The Foreign Minister reiterated Pakistan’s position that the reintegration and reconciliation process in Afghanistan should be led by the Government of Afghanistan. Pakistan would be ready to contribute in whatever way the Government of Afghanistan wished it to do so. The Foreign Minister said that it was important not to forget over 3 million Afghan refugees living in Pakistan in the integration process.

On Pakistan – India relations, the Foreign Minister said that Pakistan went to the recently – held Foreign Secretary-level meeting in New Delhi on 25 February with an open mind. Pakistan wanted its relations with India to normalize by resolving the bilateral disputes through a stained and meaningful dialogue process. The Foreign |Minister added that engaging in talks for the sake of talks would serve no purpose, underlining that India had to change its approach vis-a-vis Pakistan which somehow continued to be anchored in the Cold War mindset.

Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir briefed the Norwegian Foreign Minister about his recent meeting with the Indian Foreign Secretary.

The Norwegian Foreign Minister expressed Norway’s keen desire to further strengthen its bilateral relations with Pakistan. He also commended Pakistan’s determination against terrorism. He saluted the people of Pakistan for rendering huge sacrifices against violent extremism and terrorism. He reaffirmed Norway’s full political and economic support to Pakistan.

The Norwegian Foreign Minister invited Foreign Minister Qureshi for an official visit to Norway on mutually convenient dates.

03 March 2010

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