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Nawaz Sharif looking forward for Iranian President visit

22 March, 2016

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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has expressed the hope that the upcoming visit of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will help revitalise bilateral ties.

“I am looking forward to welcoming President Rouhani later this week. The visit will be a great opportunity for us to review the whole range of bilateral relations and further strengthen brotherly ties,” Mr Sharif said, while talking to Iranian Ambassador Mehdi Honardoost, who met him ahead of the president’s trip, here on Monday. Mr Rouhani will visit Islamabad from March 25 to 26.

The Iranian president will be accompanied by a high-ranking political team and a large trade and economic contingent. This would be the first visit by an Iranian president to Pakistan in four years. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Islamabad in Feb 2012 for a trilateral summit with Afghan and Pakistani leaders.

Mr Rouhani’s visit is part of the Iranian government’s international outreach for renewing ties with its traditional trading allies and partners after the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, a deal between Tehran and the P5+1 (Russia, China, the US, Britain, France and Germany), took effect on January 16 and provided for the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions.

Mr Sharif has indicated the government’s interest in economic and energy cooperation with Iran, saying that the revival of the economy and overcoming the energy deficit are high-priority areas of his government.

Iran has been expressing keen interest in expanding energy cooperation with Pakistan, particularly for the export of electricity, natural gas, crude oil and petro-chemicals. Tehran is also desirous of taking part in infrastructure projects such as laying of highways and rail tracks; construction of dams; and establishment of oil refineries and power plants.

Tehran wants to make the long held-up Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline the centrepiece of the renewed economic cooperation.

Mr Honardoost reminded PM Sharif of the low volume of trade between the two countries, which currently stands at a few hundred million dollars.

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