Joint press conference with Sartaj Aziz, National Security & Foreign Affairs Adviser to the Prime Minister of Pakistan

  • Transcript, E&OE

SARTAJ AZIZ Thank you for being here this afternoon.

Let me begin by welcoming Her Excellency Julie Bishop and her delegation to Islamabad. The visit is a testimony to the friendship between our two countries.

Pakistan and Australia as most of you know enjoy excellent relations which are based on mutual respect and shared interests.

In our talks today we agreed to further strengthen these relations by extending the scope of cooperation in wide ranging fields. We agreed to further consolidate the existing people-to-people contacts underscored [inaudible] by the presence of 80,000 Pakistani diaspora and around 13,000 Pakistani students in Australia.

We focused on the need for regular political exchanges between Pakistan and Australia, including high level visits. We feel that exchanges of parliamentary visits are also important.

We agreed on expanding trade and economic activity between Pakistan and Australia. I urged Foreign Minister Bishop to consider proposals for providing greater market access to Pakistani products in the Australia market.

Pakistan greatly appreciates the Australian development cooperation program carried out [inaudible] over the years. Pakistan would like to strengthen interaction with Australia in agriculture, livestock and water resource management.

We want both the countries to focus more on sports and culture.

Pakistan and Australia share common perception in combating terrorism. We resolved to continue our cooperation on counter terrorism and transnational crime.

We also discussed regional and global issues of importance to both countries.

The foreign secretary level talks between Pakistan and Australia were held in Canberra in March this year. The talks were preceded by defence and security dialogue in Islamabad in February 2015.

Foreign Minister Bishop's visit to Pakistan will lead to further enhancing our bilateral relations in all fields of importance. The visit has not only provided a good opportunity to review our bilateral relations but also discuss matters relating to the visit of the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to Australia during the World Cup in February/March this year, but due to other engagements this visit could not take place. We agreed that this visit will now take place either before the end of this year or early next year. This visit in a way was preparatory for that.

With these words I may now invite Her Excellency the Foreign Minister of Australia to for her remarks.

JULIE BISHOP Mr Aziz, thank you so much for your very warm welcome on my first visit as Foreign Minister of Australia to Pakistan.

We have had a detailed discussion already and that will continue after this press conference.

My visit here is to highlight the importance that Australia places on our bilateral relationship with Pakistan.

We have long been friends but in recent times this relationship has broadened and deepened and, I believe, is much more diversified than it has been in the past.

We look forward to welcoming Prime Minister Sharif to Australia, hopefully, at the end of this year or maybe early next year. And we are sorry that he could not be there for the World Cup because Australia performed rather well; and we do like to show off in front of our friends.

I believe that our discussion today will prove very productive in the longer term. We already have a framework of meetings in place, but particularly our discussions on increased trade and investment, there is much potential for us to advance our respective interests through increased economic ties.

Australia is leading the world in many areas, including in mining resources, in energy and in agriculture, we have a very strong services sector. We believe there are many opportunities for us to trade more extensively with Pakistan; likewise, Pakistan has some services that they would wish to reach the Australia market. So this is an area of considerable interest for us.

On the people-to-people side, there are a significant number of people from Pakistan living in Australia. And I think it might be closer to 14,000 Pakistani students who are studying in our higher education institutions.

Australia has also instituted a program called the New Colombo Plan based on the original Colombo Plan in the 1950s and 1960s which sourced students particularly from Commonwealth countries from the region to study in Australian universities. We have implemented a program to send Australian undergraduates from our universities to study at universities and live and potentially work in the region.

I am delighted that Pakistan has agreed to be a partner with Australia in the New Colombo Plan, and I look forward to Australian students coming to Pakistan in the coming years.

On the defence cooperation side of things, we have a very long-standing and strong defence relationship, with exchanges between our personnel, and we hope that will continue.

We have an interest in countering terrorism; it is a significant security threat to Australia. It is most certainly in Pakistan, and greater cooperation, sharing of information and support is very important.

I reminded Mr Aziz that Australia is hosting a Countering Violent Extremism Summit in Sydney in the middle of June, and we have experiences to share and information to discuss in relation to countering violent extremism.

We have an interest in ensuring that transnational crime is defeated and that the people smuggling trade is disrupted. We have a respective interest in ensuring that terrorism and transnational crime in the form of drug trafficking or people trafficking is eliminated.

We do have a very strong interest in peace, stability and security in our region. We had a very useful discussion on Afghanistan, and on some of the regional challenges, and on the relationship with India. We look forward to assisting Pakistan in whatever way we can to ensure this part of the world is more stable, more prosperous and more secure.

I thank Mr Aziz for his charming hospitality. I am certainly looking forward to the next couple of days here.

Just one final point, Australia has been a strong foreign aid development assistance partner for Pakistan. Our interest is in seeing your economy grow, job opportunities for young people in particular.

While I am in Pakistan, I will be announcing a package of $24 million in development assistance. Specifically today with Mr Aziz I confirmed that we will be providing $10 million to the World Bank Multi Donor Trust Fund to support efforts on those internally displaced people in the border regions and $9.9 million for the Pakistan Trade and Investment Policy program. It is our signature aid-for-trade program with Pakistan, and it is an opportunity to enhance your capacity to trade, for trade liberalisation, and supporting Pakistan's efforts to trade particularly in the region.

So, Mr Aziz thank you very much for hosting me here today and I hope this is the beginning of many more visits at the high level, including our parliamentary colleagues, but also our Prime Minister is very much looking forward to Prime Minister Sharif visiting our country.

JOURNALIST [inaudible] Thank you and welcome heartily from Pakistani media. Their wish is Pakistan has been putting efforts at eliminating … Pakistani suffered in terms of money that the world help and assist Pakistan [inaudible] scenic areas

JULIE BISHOP Well I am here as Australian Foreign Minister to underscore the importance and value that we place on the relationship. I have said that we have a New Colombo Plan which will be encouraging Australian students to Pakistan. So in this way Australia is sending a message that Pakistan is a place to visit.

Of course, we are concerned about the security situation and we recognise the efforts of the Government to counter terrorism, to shut down on those who would do harm to civilians in Pakistan. And there have been some widely publicised and high profile attacks that of course deter tourists and visitors from outside. But these are matters that your Government is dealing with.

And as a visitor to Pakistan I am demonstrating that I believe the relationship between Pakistan and Australia is important, and the people-to-people links are important, and of course we want to see Pakistan as a safe and secure environment that you can engage international visitors, students, people come to your shores and feel safe and secure. And of course that's a message that the Pakistani Government is making across the world.

JOURNALIST Thank you very much.Mateen Haider from Dawn News. My succinct [inaudible] questions is about regional peace and security. My question is what's Australia take vis-à-vis Afghanistan and [inaudible] global peace. What specific things related to peace and security you discussed with your counterpart [inaudible]. Thank you!

JULIE BISHOP Let me start with Afghanistan. I visited Kabul in January and met with President Ghani. He made very positive statements about the relationship with Pakistan. It is vital for this region that Pakistan and Afghanistan work together to manage the porous border between your two countries, that you have a united purpose ensuring that your part of the world is free from terrorism. And I found that President Ghani was very positive, and very positively disposed towards Pakistan in that regard.

Australia has still a number of defence personnel in Afghanistan. About 400 our defence personnel are still there as part of Operation Resolute Support to assist in the nation building and enhancing the security capacity and capability of Afghanistan. We have committed funding at the London conference to the support of Afghanistan as we build the nation.

Mr Aziz and I have very interesting discussion about the state of the relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Might I say it was reassuring to hear that.

We are deeply concerned about the rise of this terrorist organisation that appears to be more dangerous, more complex, more global in its ambition and reach that we have seen before. The declaration of a caliphate over parts of Syria and Iraq is a rallying cry for extremists around the world. Australia is not immune. In fact we believe that there are about 100 foreign terrorist fighters from Australia currently in Iraq and Syria supporting this brutal, barbaric and murderous terrorist organisation known as Daesh.

We have implemented a range of new laws in Australia, bolstering resources to our security, law enforcement and intelligence agencies. We are doing what we can to stem the flow of foreign terrorist fighters and finance to these organisation, and we are working in conjunction with other countries who are likeminded in their resolve to defeat these terrorist organisation and that includes Pakistan.

We are hosting a summit in Sydney in June on countering violent extremism, because we are not just dealing with the physical presence of this organisation but we are dealing with an ideology. In my recent visit to the Middle East some of the leaders of countries who are involved in defeating Daesh believe this will be a generational struggle.

Australia is committed to do all we can to support efforts to defeat this terrorist organisation and others of its ilk. In fact we now have Australian defence forces in Iraq at the invitation of and with the consent of the Iraqi government to train up their security forces so that the Iraqi defence forces are able to take back territory and protect their citizens, and hopefully defeat this terrorist organisation.

JOURNALIST [inaudible] I'm Saleh Zafar form Jang group of newspaper. I want to congratulate you on a successful world cup. You are such a nice person that no one would want to ask a difficult question. As far we know your country has entered into cooperation with India in the field of civilian nuclear cooperation despite the fact that India is reckless in this region's security. Can I ask you a question about Australia entering a nuclear cooperation with India?

JULIE BISHOP Australia is an energy power house. We have significant reserves of coal, uranium and gas; and we want to export our energy capacity to the world. Given that Australia is committed to the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions, given that Australia wants to support countries provide energy to some of their less or least developed areas in the form of electricity. We, of course, will supply energy to countries that meet our requirement.

In the case of India it is pursuing a civilian nuclear power program. We are all aware of the vast amount of India that is yet to be electrified. As a country we want India to succeed economically. We want it to be a stable, prosperous country, as of course we want for Pakistan.

So Australia is prepared to sell uranium to India but under very strict control and safeguards. The negotiations are going on for present, and that will be going on for some time, and if our requirements are met. We have legal requirements as well as standards and protocols that we need to meet. And there are international safeguards as well. If those safeguards could be met then Australia will supply uranium. But the agreement is still being negotiated, so no uranium has been supplied.

We have not had a discussion specifically on uranium but Mr Aziz and I have been taking the energy needs of Pakistan. Of course Australia stands ready to enhance bilateral trade across the commodities where Australia has much to offer.

SARTAJ AZIZ Well, I think we have a mechanism for discussing defence cooperation as well as nuclear issues. So there we can and would raise both our concerns and our expectations. As far as the specific needs are concerned as Foreign Minister Bishop has said we have discussed our energy needs particularly renewable where Australia has a lot of experience and expertise to assist. So we have to deal with these issues according to our own priorities and requirements.

JOURNALIST [inaudible] Pakistan wants solution of the Kashmir problem under the UN resolution, while India seeks bilateral mechanism to resolve this problem. Our experience suggests that bilateral [inaudible] over the last 60 years [inaudible] under the pretext of bilateral solution. What can Australia do and contribute to resolve this long standing and very serious dispute?

JULIE BISHOP It is a fact this is an issue that can only be resolved by Pakistan and India. We would encourage continuing discussions and negotiations. Just because a solution hasn't been found doesn't mean one should give up. But Australia of course will continue to encourage resolution of this dispute. Australia doesn't take sides on such issues. We seek to support Pakistan and India in their efforts to do so.

At a multilateral level I know that both countries have standing in the United Nations. And if there were matters to be debated in the United Nations both countries are perfectly entitled to seek to do so. But it is my belief, and of course the belief of the Australia government, that this is a matter that most concerns Pakistan and India.

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