Pakistan-Iran trade volume ‘unacceptable,’ to be increased to $10b, says President Raisi - GulfToday

Pakistan-Iran trade volume ‘unacceptable,’ to be increased to $10b, says President Raisi


Ebrahim Raisi (2L back) and Shahbaz Sharif (R back) witness signing of MoUs at the Prime Minister House in Islamabad on Monday. AFP

Tehran and Islamabad have decided to increase the trade volume between the two countries to $10 billion, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said on Monday, adding that the existing volume was “not acceptable.”

Raisi — who is currently on a three-day visit to Pakistan — made the remarks during a joint press conference alongside Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif after the two held a meeting in Islamabad. The visit is the first of its kind by any head of state after the Feb.8 general elections.

“We are committed to strengthening relations at high levels. […] Economic and trade volume between Iran and Pakistan is not acceptable at all. We have decided as a first step to increase the trade volume between our two countries to $10b,” he said.

Shahbaz welcomed Raisi with an honour guard ceremony in front of the premier's office. According to a statement released by the premier’s office, the two leaders discussed a range of bilateral issues and vowed to cooperate to fight terrorism, as well as jointly reiterating condemnations of Israel's war in Gaza.

Shahbaz praised Iran’s "strong stand on the issue of Palestine” and said "Pakistan is also with the Palestinians.”

In his televised remarks, Raisi vowed to boost what he called "unacceptably” meager bilateral trade and called for setting up more border markers. Pakistan and Iran set up the first such border market in southwestern Pakistan's Balochistan province last year, promising to set up five more such markets under a 2012 agreement. The two leaders also signed eight cooperation agreements, according to Shahbaz's office.

Shahbaz-IranianPresident Shahbaz Sharif greets Ebrahim Raisi in Islamabad on Monday. AP

Authorities said the two sides also discussed the multi-billion gas pipeline project, on hold since 2014. The project - opposed by Washington for what it says is a violation of sanctions imposed on Tehran over its nuclear program - launched in 2013 to supply Iranian natural gas to energy-starved Pakistan.

Iran says it has already completed the pipeline on its side of the border after investing $2 billion. Pakistan was supposed to finish construction on its territory by the end of 2014, but work stalled, leading to tensions between the two nations.

Raisi, who was accompanied by a delegation that included the country's foreign minister and cabinet members, will next visit the eastern city of Lahore and southern port city of Karachi.

Major highways in Islamabad were blocked as part of security measures for Raisi's arrival, while the government declared a public holiday in Karachi and Lahore.

Iran-Pakistan-President-750 Ebrahim Raisi arrives on a three-day official visit in Islamabad on Monday. Reuters

While Raisi's visit is a key step towards normalising ties with Islamabad, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameni, not the president, has the last say on state matters such as nuclear policy.

Tensions have also been high in the Middle East after Iran launched an unprecedented attack on Israel a week ago and central Iran in turn suffered what sources said was an Israeli attack on Friday.

Pakistan has previously called for de-escalation from "all parties."

Shahbaz lauded Iran at the news briefing for taking a strong stance on the humanitarian situation in Gaza, and called for an immediate cessation of hostilities there. Shahbaz called on Muslim countries to unite and raise their voice for an end to the conflict.

Raisi said that the killings by Israel in Gaza were being committed with the support of the United States and other Western countries. He criticised the international organisations, including the United Nations, saying "they say they support human rights, but they proved that they are inefficient.”



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