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Following the recent visit of Saudi Crown Prince to Pakistan, a controversy seems to have been instigated in the media insinuating that Pakistan has changed its position on Syria under Saudi pressure and that “Pakistan is selling arms to Saudi Arabia for use by Saudi Sponsored anti-government rebels in Syria”.

We strongly reject the media speculation that Pakistan has changed its position on Syria or is supplying arms to Syrian rebels directly or indirectly. These impressions are totally baseless and misleading.

Pakistan is a responsible State that takes its defence capabilities very seriously. We only sell arms through legal mechanism and by abiding all relevant national and international regulations which require End User Certification to prevent the buyer from onward sale or transfer of our products to any third party.

I would like to clarify that during the Saudi Crown Prince’s visit the two sides only mentioned the need to enhance bilateral cooperation in the field of defence with an aim to have a mutually beneficial defence and security cooperation. We already have three defence agreements with Saudi Arabia regarding exchange of defence delegations, training programs and employment/deputation of our defence personnel in Saudi forces.

I would therefore vehemently reject the allegations that we are selling arms for use in Syria. These allegations are motivated to blemish the name of the country. I would urge all such quarters to act more responsibly in the national interest and refrain from such misleading propaganda.

Similarly I would also like to correct the impression that Pakistan has changed its position on Syria under pressure from Saudi Arabia. For the benefit of the House, I would like to recall the following extract relating to Syria in the Pakistan-Saudi Joint Statement issued at the conclusion of the Crown Prince’s visit:

“The two sides reiterated the need for finding of a quick solution of the existing conflict in Syria according to Geneva I Resolution in order to restore peace and security in Syria and prevent bloodshed of the brotherly Syrian people. In this regard both sides called for the following:

– Importance of immediate withdrawal of all foreign armed forces and elements from Syrian territory.

– Lifting siege of the Syrian towns and villages and stopping aerial and artillery bombardment.

– The setting up of safe corridors and regions to deliver food and humanitarian aid to besieged Syrian citizens, under international supervision.

– The formation of transitional governing body with full executive powers enabling it to take charge of the affairs of the country.”

Pakistan has always taken a principled position on the situation in Syria. We have always called for:

· Protecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria;

· Cessation of hostilities and violence by all sides;

· Expressed concern on the humanitarian crisis in that country;

· Welcomed the Syrian accession to the Chemical Weapons Convention and destruction of their chemical weapons stockpile; and

· Supported international efforts to find a peaceful Syrian-led and inclusive solution being pursued under the Geneva process,meeting the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people through a comprehensive political dialogue involving the entire spectrum of the Syrian polity.

This position has been conveyed by us at various international and regional fora including UN and OIC.

It would be noted that we have always supported calls for withdrawal of all foreign armed forces from Syria; lifting of the siege of Syrian towns to provide humanitarian assistance; and formation of transitional governing body is actually agreed by all sides including the Syrian Government and Syrian opposition under the Geneva I Communiqué adopted on 30 June 2012.

Our Permanent Representative to UN had also explained our position following our “Yes” vote on UNGA resolution on Syria on 15th May, 2013. He elaborated that Pakistan had called on the “representatives of Syrian Government and opposition” to “demonstrate maturity to agree on a mechanism with full executive authority as agreed in the Geneva communiqué to negotiate a transition towards reconciliation, peace and stability.” Pakistan had also called for end to bloodshed and suffering in Syria. Our Permanent Representative in the speech had stated that “the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria is getting worse by the day. Fires of sectarianism, extremism and terrorism are consuming entire communities and neighborhood”. He had further clarified following points:-

· This resolution does not give recognition to Syrian National Coalition (SNC).

· Sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Syria would not be violated. The SNC may however, send representative, interlocutors of the opposition for the dialogue with the Syrian Government directly or under the auspicious of the UN.

· Taken note of the resolutions of the Arab League insofar as they are related to the resolution of the political situation in Syria.

We had reiterated this position again in July 2013, calling for bringing an immediate end to bloodshed in Syria. Pakistan had called on the UN Security Council and international community “to take steps to stop arms supplies to all sides and bring the Syrian Government and opposition representatives to Geneva for talks that would lead to a political solution and national reconciliation.”

The Prime Minister in his speech at the 68th plenary session of the UNGA in September 2013, had called for adoption of a resolution to “start the stalled political process in Syria”. He had also appreciated the consensus Geneva-I communiqué.

I myself during my statement on 27th September, 2013 in the Security Council had, while voting on resolution 2118, encouraged the Security Council to reunite behind the common cause of international peace and security and had emphasized that “elimination of chemical weapons in the country is important. But it is not a remedy of all the other problems plaguing this unfortunate country. Killing has to stop. More than hundred-thousand people have already lost their lives in this conflict. Political solution remains the only viable option. It is time to move back to Geneva communiqué which clearly delineates the process for a transition acceptable to Syrian people. It calls for establishment of a transition authority with full executive powers.”

Let me also highlight the fact that the situation is Syria continues to evolve. Last week on Friday (22 February), UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2139 in which it demanded that “all parties immediately cease all attacks …. including shelling and aerial bombardment…”, and called for “safe and unhindered humanitarian access to all affected areas in Syria”.

I may add here that while we fully support territorial integrity of Syria, we have joined the international community in demanding safe corridors for provision of humanitarian assistance to affected areas in Syria.

From the foregoing, it shall be clear that our position, which is based on principles of international law, has been pursued by us consistently without any change.

Honorable members would note that there is nothing new in the Pakistan-Saudi Joint Statement issued at the conclusion of the Saudi Crown Prince’s visit. The wording agreed in this joint statement is in line with our declared position and also the positions agreed unanimously by international community in UN Security Council, General Assembly and Human Right Council resolutions. It is also in line with our position on Syria in the OIC.

I hope that this would help in dispelling the misleading impression, being projected that Pakistan has changed its position on Syria.

February 25, 2014

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