PHNOM PENH: Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Friday said Pakistan considered a peaceful and stable Asia-Pacific region its priority and stressed win-win solutions instead of a strategic competition among the countries.
“We are of the firm view that our region should not become an arena for strategic competition. We continue to emphasize the need for win-win solutions,” he said in his address at the 29th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) ministerial meeting.
Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn, and foreign ministers of ASEAN countries attended the event.
Bilawal said Pakistan had full faith in an ASEAN-led ARF, a vital platform, for promoting open dialogue on political and security cooperation in the region.
“It has immense potential for both conflict management and resolution, and inclusive security cooperation,” he said, emphasizing that Pakistan stood ready to work with ARF partners to develop its linkages with other international platforms for confidence building and conflict prevention.
He said Pakistan’s aspiration for a full dialogue partnership was a sign of its continued commitment to relations with ASEAN.
He said Pakistan would remain a strong partner in all endeavours for peace, stability and development of the region and beyond.
The foreign minister spoke at length about various issues of importance, including COVID-19, geopolitics, Afghanistan, climate change, and conflicts of Ukraine, Afghanistan and South Asia.
COVID-19: Bilawal stressed to develop mechanisms and processes for a more coordinated response to future health crises, undertake efforts to ensure vaccine equity, and fight future pandemics in a more humane manner.
He mentioned that COVID-19 exacerbated the economic woes of nations from North to South. Supply and value chains were disrupted, unemployment mounted, growth rates plummeted, and debt burden accumulated.
He said the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) was laudable for providing much needed relief to developing countries in distress and called for reinforcing the recovery efforts, especially in the global South.
Climate change: Bilawal said climate change was an existential threat, and its impact on sustainable development and human well-being was incalculable.
He mentioned that Pakistan was ravaged by floods caused by unprecedented rains, with dozens of towns and villages inundated and thousands displaced.
He called for the need to collectively respond to the threat posed by climate change by equitably sharing the burden and the responsibility.
He proposed that in order to mitigate its negative impact and to adapt meaningfully, the promised climate finance must be made available to the developing countries.
Global inflation: The foreign minister said volatility of international markets was intensified due to heightened tensions and ongoing military conflict.
He stressed on urgent measures to contain and reverse the adverse trends, and said the world community must join hands to find collective solutions, particularly those which worked for the most gravely impacted nations.
Geopolitics: Bilawal said today, the global environment was in tremendous flux, with the international system distinctly fragile and adrift.
“Rivalries have accentuated; bloc politics seems to be returning; new groupings and small configurations are emerging – with potential military dimensions in certain instances,” he said. “Confrontation will not serve anyone’s interest. It will only result in disruption, destabilization and potential conflict,” he added.
The foreign minister said Pakistan believed that a recommitment to the fundamental principles of the United Nations Charter and effective multilateralism was imperative.
Ukraine conflict: Bilawal said the continuation of the Ukrainian conflict remained a matter of deep concern and reflected the failure of diplomacy.
He welcomed the recent agreement brokered by Turkiye and the United Nations to free up grain exports from the Black Sea ports.
South Asian conflicts: Bilawal said the peaceful resolution of long-standing disputes in South Asia was critical for sustainable peace and long-term prosperity of the peoples.
“We strongly condemn and reject illegal and unilateral measures to perpetuate unlawful occupation and to effect demographic changes in occupied territories, in gross violation of UN Security Council resolutions and international law, including the 4th Geneva Convention,” he added.
The foreign minister said given the right conducive conditions, all outstanding disputes could be resolved through dialogue and diplomacy in the interest of regional peace, stability, and prosperity.
Peaceful Afghanistan: Bilawal minister emphasized that a peaceful, stable, prosperous and connected Afghanistan was critical for the region.
“Pakistan has emphasized the importance of inclusivity in governance and respect for the human rights of all Afghans, especially women and girls,” he said.
He expressed confidence that Afghanistan’s soil would not be allowed to be used for terrorism against any country. He reiterated the demand for de-freezing of Afghanistan’s financial assets and de-linking humanitarian assistance from political considerations.