August 7, 2014| Media Briefing|
(2014-08-07)[This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated]
Update on Situation Gaza
The Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Mr. Sartaj Aziz will attend the Expanded Extraordinary Meeting of the OIC Executive Committee at the Level of Foreign Ministers, which is being held in Jeddah on 12 August 2014 with regard to the situation in Gaza.
The Adviser’s participation in this meeting will signify Pakistan’s strong political, diplomatic and moral support for the Palestinian people in the face of Israeli aggression and continued occupation.
Pakistan has been a steadfast and consistent supporter of the Palestinian cause right from the beginning. Pakistan’s forthright and strong condemnation of the recent Israeli aggression against Palestinians was led by the Prime Minister of Pakistan who condemned the Israeli genocide and reiterated Pakistan’s long-standing support to Palestine. He also announced US$ 1 million for emergency humanitarian assistance for the affected Gazans.
You would recall that on 24 July, the Foreign Secretary had briefed you on the efforts that had been undertaken by Pakistan in support of Palestine. This included steering of a resolution at the Human Rights Council in Geneva that established an international commission of inquiry. In New York, Pakistan had called upon the Security Council to intervene and to adopt a resolution to bring about a ceasefire and remove Israeli forces from Gaza. Jumatul-Wida / Al-Aqsa day was declared a day of mourning as a mark of solidarity with Gaza.
During his visit to the United Nations Headquarters in New York on 28 July, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs (SAPM), Syed Tariq Fatemi, addressed the United Nations Security Council, and had a meeting with the UN Deputy Secretary General, Mr. Jan Eliasson. The SAPM urged the Security Council to live up to its promises of maintaining peace and security and to demonstrate political will to prevent and resolve conflicts. He emphasized that the international community was demanding of the Security Council to be more assertive and effective in addressing the crisis in Palestine.
In all his interactions, the SAPM conveyed deep anguish of the Government and people of Pakistan over the deteriorating situation in Gaza and called for immediate ceasefire and revival of the peace process. The SAPM also met with the Palestinian Ambassador to the United Nations, Mr. Riyadh Mansour, and conveyed Pakistan’s support and solidarity with the Gazans and the Palestinian people.
On August 4, the National Assembly of Pakistan adopted a strong resolution regarding the situation in Gaza.
The Floor is now Open for Questions
Given the security situation in Afghanistan and the recent killing of a US General, have we taken a fresh look on how this situation is evolving? How does this effect Pakistan’s security concerns?
Secondly, has the Foreign Office taken some additional security measures ahead of the Azadi March due to be held on 14th August?
Well, we have taken sufficient security measures since the operation Zarb-e-Azb started to beef up the security so that is in place.
As regards your first question about Afghanistan, well, we have noticed incidents of increased violence in Afghanistan. We have also seen with deep dismay that the spate of Afghan allegations maligning Pakistan’s National Security Institutions continues unabated. Pakistan reiterates its categorical rejection of Afghan allegations of involvement in terrorist attacks, insurgent activities or cross-border shelling. We also firmly reject any statements casting aspersions on Pakistan’s commitment to fight terrorism.
As we have repeatedly emphasized, terrorism is a common enemy afflicting the whole region and concerted efforts must be made by all sides for combating it effectively. Leveling of baseless allegations serves no useful purpose. It only benefits the enemies of peace and undermines the prospects of a cordial relationship between the fraternal peoples of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The launch of Operation Zarb-e-Azb is the clearest reflection of Pakistan’s resolve to fight terrorism without any discrimination or distinction. The Operation is dictated by Pakistan’s own national interest, and is backed by national consensus. To ensure optimal results, it is imperative that necessary steps are taken by the Afghan authorities on their side of the border in blocking the fleeing terrorists and eliminating terrorist sanctuaries on Afghan territory. It is equally essential that effective measures are instituted to strengthen border controls and surveillance.
Pakistan remains committed to building friendly and good-neighborly relations with Afghanistan, based on the principles of mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity. We hope that the Afghan side would reciprocate our policy of restraint and responsibility and our continued efforts for constructive engagement. It is essential to maintain a conducive environment for the continued development of cooperative and mutually-beneficial ties between the two countries.
As you said the Advisor is proceeding to Jeddah to attend the OIC Executive Session. Is any proposal or suggestion under consideration by the Pakistan side to be presented in that Session? Also if OIC decides to go for an economic boycott of Israel, what will be Pakistan’s position?
Secondly, there was again a drone attack yesterday which reportedly resulted in killing of a number of militants. There have been reports that around 90 children have been killed by the US drone strikes up till now. What are your comments?
Thirdly, there have been reports about Chinese President’s visit to Pakistan. Can you confirm the exact dates?
I will start with the last question, yes, the Chinese President is likely to visit Pakistan and dates are being worked out. As soon as they are finalized, we will share them with you. But the visit, contrary to the reports in the media, is not in August.
Coming to your question on drone strikes, well, our position on the US drone strikes in Pakistan is very well known. From this forum, we have reiterated it a number of times. We have condemned these attacks as they violate our sovereignty and territorial integrity. There is a debate about the legality of the use of armed drones in the UN as well. You know that a resolution of the UN General Assembly contained references questioning the legality of the use of the drones last year in the last Session. Also at the last Human Rights Council Session, Pakistan sponsored resolution on drones was adopted. The panel that was established under that resolution is going to meet in September to discuss this issue further. Work on this issue continues. The international awareness campaign and the strengthening of public opinion against the use of drones continue. I would say no country can or should remain indifferent to international public opinion.
On the first question, well, there have been a number of OIC meetings in Jeddah, in New York and in Geneva. Certain ideas have been discussed. This meeting, we hope, would help crystallize some concrete steps that the Muslim countries, as a whole, can take to help the Palestinian people particularly in Gaza. We look forward to contributing to that discussion.
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Mr. Tariq Fatemi has been quoted in the US press as having said that there have been discussions on the reduction of nuclear stockpiles between Pakistan and India. Can you elaborate?
Secondly, there have been reports in the Indian media that Prime Minister Modi is likely to visit Pakistan in near future as part of his visits to all the SAARC states. Can you confirm?
For the second question; No, I have no information about that.
As regards the statement attributed to SAPM, in fact what I saw in the press was a statement attributed to some senior official. Nonetheless, during his visit to US, obviously there were questions about Pakistan-India relations and strategic stability in the region. The SAPM has shared with us that what he had referred to was the proposals that Pakistan gave to India regarding strategic stability after the nuclearization of South Asia. There was absolutely no mention of any stock piles. He was talking in the context of what transpired after Pakistan and India became nuclear states. Obviously, he also highlighted the steps that Pakistan has taken for the safety and security of its nuclear installations and Pakistan’s proposals to India, over the years, as confidence building and for a comprehensive restraint regime in this region.
There have been reports in the Indian media alleging that a Pakistani diplomat posted in Colombo had been involved in spying against India and was planning attacks in Chennai and other cities. Pakistan has called this diplomat back. What are your comments?
Yes, I have seen some of these reports. As a matter of policy we do not comment on unconfirmed media reports, selective leaks and the motivated spin given to these reports. We see it as an effort to create a wedge between Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Our two countries have excellent relations. As you know, the Sri Lankan Foreign Secretary was here yesterday and we had very fruitful discussions on further strengthening our bilateral relations and increasing economic ties. Co-inciding these baseless reports with her visit was another attempt to create a rift between the two countries.
Few days back the Indian Army Chief just after taking office threatened Pakistan of dire consequences in case of any infiltration attempts. Your comments?
This is a very irresponsible statement and one would not expect it from anyone who is in touch with the reality in South Asia. That’s all I would say.
My question is regarding the TAPI Pipeline Project. Can you please elaborate what exactly would be discussed with the Turkmen delegation in Islamabad today on the future of this pipeline which has already gained the reputation of being a delayed and complicated project?
Yes, this project has been in the pipeline for a long time. Some concrete work and some feasibility reports have already been done. The purpose of such meetings is to take that process forward. Obviously, stability in Afghanistan is one factor in this regard. We do hope that as things stabilize in Afghanistan, the progress on this project will be expedited.
There have been reports that during his visit to Afghanistan as Special Envoy of the Prime Minister; Mr. Mehmood Khan Achakzai had handed over a confidential letter from PM Nawaz Sharif to the Afghan President which, among other things, talked about Afghan elections. Can you confirm these reports?
Mr. Achakzai’s visit, as we have briefed you in the past also, was part of our efforts to seek Afghanistan’s cooperation during Zarb-e-Azb. After this visit, there have been a number of other contacts including Mr. Spanta’s visit. In all these contacts, we have emphasized the need for measures by Afghan authorities to apprehend the fleeing terrorists, to strengthen border management and surveillance and to eliminate terrorist sanctuaries on Afghan soil from where attacks have been launched against Pakistan. The visit was part of that agenda.
Some right wing parties are asking the government to convene an OIC Summit or a Foreign Minister’s Conference on Gaza situation. Can you confirm if such a suggestion is being considered by the Foreign Office? Do you think Pakistan is doing enough for the people in Gaza being the sole nuclear power in the Muslim world?
Secondly, there are reports that Americans have refused to enter into a prisoners exchange agreement with Pakistan. Can you tell us why?
No proposal for hosting an extra ordinary OIC Summit has come to the Foreign Office. As already stated, we have taken a number of steps: we have condemned the Israel aggression and genocide and steps to provide financial assistance; to raise international awareness. Thirdly, together with OIC countries, we are endeavouring to come up with a strategy that would help the Palestinian cause in the short term, medium term and in the long term. The OIC meeting which is taking place in Jeddah next week is part of that effort.
On your second question, I will have to check and get back to you.
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