It is a very great pleasure warmly to welcome Hina Rabbani Khar to the Foreign Office today for her first official visit to Britain as Pakistan’s Foreign Minister.
She and I have worked very closely together since she became Foreign Minister last February, and I know from this that she is a true and firm friend to the people of the United Kingdom. I thank her for that friendship and for coming to London this week for talks on our Enhanced Strategic Dialogue.
This Dialogue is about strengthening the practical cooperation between our countries and unlocking the abundant potential in our relationship. The fact that we have such a dialogue is testament to the fact that this is a mature relationship which is growing stronger all the time.
In Britain we are committed to a relationship with Pakistan that is deep, long term and strategic. We value its many distinctive characteristics; such as the close personal ties between hundreds of thousands of our citizens, our crucial partnership against terrorism, our important trade ties and our unswerving commitment to Pakistan’s development and to its democratic future. For all these reasons Pakistan’s future matters greatly to us and so we will be an enduring friend to the government and people of Pakistan.
The Foreign Minister and I have had warm, positive and wide-ranging talks already, and we will go on to have further discussions later today.
Today we have agreed to continue our collaboration against terrorism; helping disrupt immediate threats and to tackle the long term causes of terrorism. In Britain we understand the terrible losses terrorism has inflicted upon Pakistan and we feel them deeply too. I say to you again, Foreign Minister, that the people of Pakistan will always have our sympathy, our understanding, and our robust support in addressing these problems.
We discussed Afghanistan, and I welcomed the Minister’s recent productive visit to Kabul. It is vital that further progress in made this year to consolidate the process of transition to Afghan security control, to agree a long term international commitment to Afghanistan beyond 2014, and to support Afghan-led efforts towards reconciliation and a lasting political settlement. All these things are vital to the long term security of Britain and Pakistan and to the region.
We reviewed the good progress towards increasing our bilateral trade to £2.5 billion by 2015, and the growing presence in Pakistan of some familiar British high streets names. Britain was at the forefront of efforts to help Pakistan recover from the devastating floods in2010 - and so we welcomed the WTO’s very welcome decision to grant a waiver for an EU trade package for Pakistan. We look forward to its swift implementation and we have been a leading country in the world and in the EU on this.
We discussed the forthcoming elections in Pakistan and their importance to Pakistan’s continued democratic development, and we wish the Pakistani people well ahead of those elections. It is a special year here in Britain as well. As we mark Her Majesty the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and prepare to host the Paralympics and the Olympics we welcome the fact that the people of Pakistan will be able to share in this with us, and it promises to be a rewarding time for our cultural and sporting ties - although I will gloss over your recent victory over us in the test match cricket series.
We also discussed wider foreign policy issues in the light of Pakistan’s current membership of the UN Security Council. We want to strengthen our working relationship with Pakistan in international bodies as its voice in world affairs grows.
I particularly thanked the Minister for the role she played in our efforts to gain a UN Security Council resolution on Syria and Pakistan’s principled position on the issue, and I look forward to taking forward that cooperation. I will chair a special session of the UN Security Council on the Arab Spring in March, and we welcome Pakistan’s role in that debate.
I also welcome the Foreign Minister’s support for the objectives of the London Conference on Somalia this week, at which she will represent Pakistan. It is vital that our successes in combating Al-Qaeda in South East Asia are not undermined by allowing terrorism to gain a stronger foothold in the Horn of Africa, and that we also address the root causes of the instability in Somalia.
Foreign Minister as I think you will have noted on your visit, there is great interest in and lasting goodwill towards Pakistan here in Britain. Your visit is an opportunity to emphasise the ties between us, to forge a stronger relationship between our governments, and to set a clear sense of direction for the future of our relationship and I am confident that we are doing that, so I thank you - and I look forward to implementing our decisions and commitments today and to working closely together as equal partners in the coming months.