AP

Top US and Pakistan diplomats say they want stronger ties

May 18, 2022, 11:09 AM | Updated: 12:20 pm

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Pakistan’s new Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari met for the first time Wednesday and both said they want to strengthen ties between the two countries.

Bhutto Zardari flew to New York to attend a ministerial meeting at U.N. headquarters called by the United States later Wednesday that will be chaired by Blinken on growing food insecurity around the world, which has been exacerbated by Russia’s war on Ukraine.

The Pakistani minister welcomed the U.S. initiative at the start of his meeting with Blinken at U.N. headquarters, saying “recent geopolitical events have indeed aggravated the situation, and countries like Pakistan have already been facing challenges in food security, water security, energy security because of a whole host of issues ranging from climate change to issues in our neighborhood.”

“I also look forward to the opportunity to increasing engagement between Pakistan and the United States, working with yourself and your administration to improve trade relations between Pakistan and the United States and create opportunities for American investors and Pakistani investors and Pakistani businessmen and American entrepreneurs to work together,” Bhutto Zardari said.

Blinken welcomed Pakistan’s participation at the food security event and called his meeting with the foreign minister “an important opportunity for us to talk about the many issues we’re working together.”

“We want to focus on the work we’re doing to strengthen our economic and commercial ties between the United States and Pakistan,” and to focus on regional security, America’s top diplomat said.

Pakistan is the current chair of the Group of 77 — a powerful coalition of 134 mainly developing nations and China at the United Nations — and Blinken said “the United States is looking forward to strengthening our own relations and dialogue with the G77.” He said he looked forward to talking to the foreign minister about that.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said later that Blinken met with Bhutto Zardari “to affirm the shared desire for a strong and prosperous bilateral relationship.”

During the meeting, which lasted about 45 minutes, Price said they discussed “expanding partnership in climate, investment, trade, and health as well as people-to-people ties.”

“They underscored the importance of U.S.-Pakistan cooperation on regional peace, counterterrorism, Afghan stability, support for Ukraine, and democratic principles,” the spokesman said.

Bhutto Zardari, the son of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto who was killed in 2007, is co-chair of one of the two largest opposition parties that ousted former prime minister Imran Khan on April 11.

Pakistan’s parliament elected opposition lawmaker Shahbaz Sharif as the country’s new prime minister and he appointed Bhutto Zardari as foreign minister on April 27.

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Top US and Pakistan diplomats say they want stronger ties