Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at a joint news conference with Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Islamabad, April 7, 2021
Thank you, Mr Minister.
Ladies and gentlemen,
First of all, I would like to thank our Pakistani hosts for the warm and hospitable welcome.
Russian-Pakistani relations are constructive and mutually beneficial. We have developed a trust-based political dialogue, including at the high and top levels. It is gratifying that we have maintained regular contacts despite the coronavirus pandemic.
It is encouraging that our bilateral trade reached a record-high level last year, growing by over 45 percent to $790 million. Both sides agree that this could be further improved. We should look for ways to deepen our economic cooperation still more. A crucial role in this belongs to the Intergovernmental Russian-Pakistani Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation, which is scheduled to meet in Russia this year.
We exchanged views on the outlook for cooperation in energy, including our flagship project, the North-South gas pipeline from Karachi to Lahore. We signed an intergovernmental agreement on this in 2015. We are now itemising its topics before formalising them in a protocol to this agreement. I hope we will sign it and will be able to launch the project without any delay.
We reaffirmed Russia’s readiness to continue providing assistance to the strengthening of Pakistan’s counterterrorism capability, which includes the supply of relevant equipment. We believe that this will be in the interests of all regional countries. We agreed to continue the regular Friendship tactical exercises in mountain conditions and the Arabian Monsoon naval counterterrorism and anti-piracy exercises.
We agreed that we hold similar or identical views on current international affairs. We have a common interest in carrying on and strengthening the coordination of our efforts on the international stage, including at the UN. We pointed out that our Pakistani friends have been actively involved in the SCO’s practical activities, including its Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure, since Pakistan joined the SCO as a full member three years ago.
Russia, just like its Pakistani friends, is seriously concerned about the aggravation of security problems in Afghanistan. Terrorist activity is on the rise there, and ISIS is strengthening its positions in the country’s northern and eastern regions. We agreed to continue working to create conditions for the conflicting sides to find constructive solutions that would allow them to stop the civil war in Afghanistan on the basis of agreements on the establishment of inclusive power structures. This was the aim of the so-called Expanded Troika meeting on Afghanistan, which was held by Russia, China, the United States and Pakistan in Moscow on March 18, 2021.
We discussed the developments in the Middle East and North Africa, including Syria, Libya and Yemen, as well as a Palestinian-Israeli settlement. We believe that, in light of the dramatic events taking place in the region, it is unacceptable to overlook the goal of creating a Palestinian state. Russia is willing to encourage a direct dialogue between Palestinians and Israelis and will actively promote this stand.
We held an in-depth discussion on the situation in Asia Pacific. Ambiguous processes are developing there. A disruptive US-led geopolitical structure is being created there, and the strategies that are being promoted contradict everything that has been previously done in Asia Pacific. We strongly object to any attempts to create dividing lines there. We stand for the preservation of the open structures created with the central role of ASEAN.
During the talks, we also welcomed the recent steps taken by India and Pakistan to normalise bilateral relations.
We are satisfied with the outcome of our talks. We noted mutual readiness to continue to promote Russian-Pakistani ties.
Question (retranslated from English): How do you see the future of trade between Russia and Pakistan?
Sergey Lavrov: We saw a significant increase in mutual trade last year, mainly due to the supply of Russian wheat worth more than $200 million.
We are interested in making this upward trend sustainable. To do this, we need to diversify our relations in this area. The North-South gas pipeline project linking Karachi and Lahore is expected to play an important role here.
Some time ago now, there was a mutual interest in the supply of Russian LNG by Gazprom, Rosneft and Novatek. Appropriate proposals have been put forward. We are waiting for a response from our Pakistani partners.
Another new field in our energy ties is cooperation between Rosatom and the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission. They are currently discussing specific steps in non-electric applications of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, in particular, in medicine and industry.
These and other projects, which will also be discussed by the Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation between Russia and Pakistan, will certainly add stability to our ties.
Question (to both ministers, retranslated from English): The Russian Sputnik V vaccine has been approved in Pakistan for private use on a commercial basis. It has become widely popular, especially among young Pakistanis. Could you tell us more about the possibilities for expanding Russian-Pakistani cooperation in the production and distribution of Sputnik V?
Sergey Lavrov (answers after Shah Mahmood Qureshi): We have indeed discussed this matter. Russia has already supplied 50,000 doses to Pakistan, and another 150,000 will be delivered soon. As Mr Qureshi mentioned, Pakistan's needs are immeasurably greater, but so far, the situation depends on expansion of production outside the Russian Federation, in countries that are our foreign partners. India and Belarus have already established the production of Sputnik V, and the Republic of Korea and a number of other countries will join them soon.
We are ready to try to help our Pakistani colleagues meet their needs using the available production capacity. But we also have obligations to countries that made requests earlier.
This is a very promising topic. Our respective experts will work on it.
Question (retranslated from English): What is the current situation regarding the construction of the Pakistani North-South gas pipeline?
Sergey Lavrov: We have already spoken in detail about this. There is a 2015 Agreement between the Government of the Russian Federation and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan on cooperation on the North-South gas pipeline project. A protocol to it is being discussed now because some new circumstances need to be taken into account. As soon as our Pakistani colleagues are ready to sign the protocol, the project will go ahead.
Question (to both ministers): Russia previously signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Iran and Pakistan on the Iran-Pakistan-India offshore gas pipeline project. However, we have heard nothing about this project for quite some time. Is it being discussed in practical terms? Or is it frozen due to the aggravating controversy between India and Pakistan?
Sergey Lavrov: This topic was not discussed today.