United Nations, May 18 (PTI) US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday met Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari at the UN headquarters here and discussed strengthening their economic and commercial ties, as well as regional security situation, amid unprecedented deterioration in bilateral ties during the previous Imran Khan regime.
The two leaders also discussed Afghan stability, support for Ukraine, and democratic principles.
“BhuttoZardari and I reaffirmed our shared desire for a strong and prosperous U.S.-Pakistani bilateral relationship. I look forward to expanding our cooperation on climate, trade and investment, and regional peace and security issues,” Blinken tweeted.
Pakistan’s relations with the US have been lukewarm, especially under the Biden administration. Bilwal’s US visit is taking place amid unprecedented deterioration in Pakistan-US ties, triggered by former prime minister Khan’s claim that Washington conspired with Pakistan’s Opposition leaders to topple his government. The Biden administration had rubbished Khan’s repeated allegations.
State Department Spokesperson Ned Price, in a readout of the meeting, said that they discussed expanding partnership in climate, investment, trade, and health as well as people-to-people ties.
“They underscored the importance of US-Pakistan cooperation on regional peace, counterterrorism, Afghan stability, support for Ukraine, and democratic principles,” the readout said.
Blinken welcomed Pakistan’s Chairmanship of the G77 and committed to advancing climate action and global food security.
Bilawal, who assumed charge as the foreign minister, is on a maiden visit to the US at the invitation of Blinken to attend the ministerial meeting on the “Global Food Security Call to Action” to be held at the United Nations later Wednesday. The US is President of the UN Security Council for the month of May and Blinken is in New York to convene meetings to mobilise action on global food security.
In his remarks before his meeting with Bilawal, the first face-to-face interaction between the two ministers, Blinken said Washington is “very pleased” to be working with the foreign minister and with a new government in Pakistan.
“We’re both here, of course, first and foremost for the ministerial meeting we’re having a little bit later today on food security. This is a challenge that we’re seeing around the world. There was a pre-existing condition, as it were when it comes to food insecurity in many places. It’s been exacerbated dramatically by Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, adding another 40 million people to those who are food insecure,” he said.
On May 19, Blinken will chair the first signature event of the United States’ presidency of the UN Security Council: an open debate focusing on the critical links between conflict and food security.
Blinken also added that “this is an important opportunity” for the two countries to “talk about the many issues where we’re working together.” “We want to focus on the work we’re doing to strengthen our economic and commercial ties between the US and Pakistan; of course, focus on regional security. And Pakistan is now in the chairmanship of the G77 and the United States is looking forward to strengthening our own relations and dialogue and communication with the G77,” he said.
Bilawal said Islamabad is aware that recent geopolitical events have aggravated the global food security situation “and countries like Pakistan have already been facing challenges in food security, water security, and energy insecurity because of a whole host of issues ranging from climate change to issues in our neighbourhood. So this particular initiative is most welcome and most important.” He said he looks forward to increasing engagement between Pakistan and the US, working with the Biden administration to “improve trade relations between Pakistan and the US and create opportunities for American investors, and Pakistani investors, and Pakistani businessmen, and American entrepreneurs to work together.”