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Putin, Shehbaz quietly exchange letters



ISLAMABAD:

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif have quietly exchanged letters, expressing desire to strengthen cooperation between the two countries.

The letters were exchanged after the election of Shehbaz as prime minister but both the sides kept development away from the media glare in what seemed to be a move aimed at avoiding any public attention.

A senior foreign office official confirmed to The Express Tribune that President Putin wrote a letter to the prime minister, congratulating him on his election.

Read more: Erdogan, Modi first to congratulate Shehbaz

The official, who requested not to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue, said Putin expressed the desire to deepen cooperation between the two countries.

PM Shehbaz wrote back to Putin thanking him for his felicitation message and expressed similar sentiments on bilateral ties between the two countries as well as cooperation on Afghanistan.

The exchange of letters happened as the former prime minister Imran Khan is adamant he was ousted from power through an alleged US-backed vote of no-confidence since Americans did not like his Russian policy.

But the felicitation message by President Putin suggested that the process of building a relationship between Pakistan and Russia would continue under the new political dispensation.

Foreign office officials said resetting ties with Russia was a decision taken by the state a long time back keeping in view the changing regional and international alignments.

That process, officials said, would continue but without much fanfare for some time given the Russia-Ukraine crisis.

The Russian Embassy in Islamabad, using its Twitter handle, congratulated Shehbaz on April 12 and expressed the hope that ties between the two countries would grow under his government.

Also read: Shehbaz, Modi kick off ‘letter diplomacy’

Unlike Imran Khan’s government, the new government will push for resetting ties with the West, particularly with the United States. Sources said that Pakistan’s relationship with the West and the US was damaged because of the former prime minister’s rhetorical statements.

The new premier would avoid such an approach rather work quietly to advance the country’s foreign policy interests. The focus would also be on reaching out to the European Union, a major trading partner of Pakistan.

On Friday, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen congratulated PM Shehbaz on assuming the office of the prime minister and underlined the commission’s desire to further strengthen its bilateral relationship with Pakistan.

The prime minister expressed his thanks for the felicitations and stated that Pakistan greatly valued its relations with the European Union, which were based on shared values and common objectives of peace, prosperity and development.

He highlighted the importance of closer trade and investment ties between Pakistan and the EU. He appreciated the GSP Plus arrangement and underlined that, being a mutually beneficial scheme, it had played an important role in the expansion of Pakistan-EU trade.

The premier lauded Ursula von der Leyen’s stewardship of the EU Commission and underscored his resolve to further deepen mutual engagement. PM Shehbaz also extended a cordial invitation to the European Commission President.

The two leaders agreed to stay in contact and work together to expand Pakistan-EU relations, intensify investment and trade cooperation, and enhance mutual cooperation between the two sides in diverse fields.



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