Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Tuesday departed Pakistan for Iran on a two-day visit during which he is slated to hold detailed discussions with his Iranian counterpart on all areas of mutual interest.
According to a statement issued by the Foreign Office, this is the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman’s first official visit to Iran. It is being undertaken at the invitation of Iranian Foreign minister Amir Adbollahian, who also welcomed the visiting dignitary upon his arrival to Tehran.
In addition to meeting the Iranian foreign minister, said the Foreign Office, Bhutto-Zardari would also meet Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and other dignitaries. He is also slated to visit Mashhad city on Wednesday, prior to his return to Pakistan.
“During the delegation-level talks, the two sides will review all facets of bilateral relations, including trade and economic ties, electricity supply from Iran, border sustenance markets, road and rail connectivity, and facilitation of Zaireen,” read the statement, adding that both countries would also review the regional security situation, with a particular focus on developments in Afghanistan and South Asia, as well as efforts to combat Islamophobia.
The Foreign Office said that Bhutto-Zardari’s visit to Iran was part of regular high-level exchanges between the two countries, noting that the last meeting between the foreign ministers of Pakistan and Iran had been on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum at Davos on May 26, 2022.
“Pakistan and Iran enjoy close cooperative ties, based on shared geography, cultural affinities, and historic people-to-people linkages,” read the statement. “These fraternal relations have been further strengthened through frequent high-level exchanges. The two countries are celebrating the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations in 2022,” it added.
Prior to his visit, the foreign minister spoke with Iranian news outlet IRNA and stressed that relations between Islamabad and Tehran were “historic” and spanned both the cultural and spiritual spheres. He said that economic cooperation and coordination between the neighboring nations had great potential to be expanded. “I am really hoping that we will be able to discuss these issues, enhance the modes and means of transport between the two countries, and encourage not only, obviously religious and spiritual tourism between the two countries, but also economic tourism and people-to-people activities,” he said.
Referring to the Pak-Iran Gas Pipeline project, Bhutto-Zardari noted it had been initiated by former president Asif Ali Zardari. “We would want international obligations, their framework and the deal to progress so that we can unlock the potential in our relations further,” he said of the 1,100-kilometer gas pipeline that is tentatively slated to begin next year. He also said Afghanistan was a major regional concern, and he wished to discuss it with Tehran during his visit to Iran.