Qureshi urges world to speak up against violence in Palestine

Islamabad: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi Tuesday urged the international community to speak up against the violence faced by Palestinians.

“They can’t stay silent anymore,” he remarked while addressing a press conference in Islamabad on Tuesday.

“Pakistan’s stance on Palestine and Al Aqsa Mosque has been very clear and there is no ambiguity there.”

He said that Palestinians were attacked while they were praying on the night of the 27th of Ramazan. “People were praying and they were attacked with stun grenades and rubber bullets. This is against norms of humanity.”

Pakistan strongly condemns the attack and stands in solidarity with its Palestinian brothers. “We have to diffuse the situation and move towards de-escalation.”

He remarked a suggestion has also been given to call an emergency session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Israel launched deadly airstrikes on Gaza Monday in response to a barrage of rockets fired by Hamas amid spiralling violence sparked by unrest at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. Twenty-one Palestinians, including nine children, have been killed and 65 wounded.

The air raids were carried out after Hamas, the paramilitary group in control of the Gaza strip, fired rockets into Israel after it refused to withdraw from the Temple Mount and Shaikh Jarrah neighbourhood. Several rockets were launched, but most were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile defence system.

Tensions in Jerusalem, which is considered a holy site for Jews, Muslims and Christians, have been running high since Israeli riot police attacked Palestinian worshippers on the last Friday of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramazan in the city’s worst disturbances since 2017.

Nightly unrest since then at the Al-Aqsa compound has left hundreds of Palestinians wounded, drawn calls for de-escalation from the international community and sharp rebukes from across the Muslim world.

The Foreign Minister said Pakistan would welcome the third-party facilitation by Saudi Arabia or any other country for resumption of talks with India.

“Pakistan is ready for third-party facilitation. It is India that has always shied away from it,” the foreign minister said in a press conference held here at Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Qureshi said Saudi Arabia was the friend of Pakistan and also had business ties with India, which was a big importer of Saudi oil.

“If Saudi Arabia wants to play a role (in facilitating talks), we will welcome,” he said.

He recalled that the ceasefire agreement between Pakistan and India was welcomed by the world including Saudi Arabia.

The foreign minister confirmed that there were “no formal talks” at the moment with India, however said if India wanted it to make it happen, it “must take the first step forward”.

“If India wants a meaningful dialogue with Pakistan, it has to review its policy on Kashmir and undo the revocation of their special status,” he said.

He called upon India to give relief to the Kashmiri people, who were suffering the 19-month-long military siege and the search and cordon operations, and thus “pave way for a conducive environment for talks”.

To a question regarding his recent statement on Article-370 of the India constitution, he said Pakistan was firm on its stance that “Kashmir is not an internal matter of India”.

“Pakistan has not taken any U-turn and will never do so. The dispute, which is at the agenda of United Nations Security Council with several resolutions on it, cannot be an internal matter of India,” he categorically said.

“Pakistan has not taken any U-turn and will never do so. The dispute, which is at the agenda of United Nations Security Council with several resolutions on it, cannot be an internal matter of India,” he categorically said.

 “There is no ambiguity and Pakistan will continue highlighting the plight of Kashmiris at all international for a,” he added.

By revoking Article 35-A, he said, India was distorting the demography of the Valley and denying the Kashmiris their identity.

On Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia, he said it led to development of a “positive understanding” at both sides that promoting their mutual relationship was need of the hour.

He said besides agreement on investments, bilateral trade and creation of job opportunities, the extraordinary development was putting in place for the first time an institutionalized mechanism with three pillars – security, economic and cultural and soft image, and chalking out  who would be leading the respective areas.

“This Saudi visit was different in a sense that it defeated the designs of the elements that were trying to create a wedge between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Now, it is a win-win cooperation,” he said.

Qureshi said under the Vision 2030 of Crown Prince, around 10 million workforce was required in next few years and the leadership wanted to allocate a big chuck for Pakistanis.

“In addition to blue-collar jobs, we have to prepare our workforce for the white-collar jobs through their capacity-building at professional sides,” he said.

He said the $500 million Saudi fund would help Pakistan meet its energy needs through development of hydropower projects.

Qureshi said Saudi Arab had a special place in Muslim community which looked towards it for a leadership role, saying that Pakistan welcomed initiation of talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran to ease tension.

Asked if the Saudi assistance to Pakistan would lead to favours in return, he said, “Pakistan is not paying a price. It knows its own interests”.

 “Diplomacy is not an instant job, but one has to chip and work on the matters through persistent efforts. Pakistan will protect its interests in any case,” he added.

Foreign Minister Qureshi said Pakistan stands with Afghanistan in its efforts for peace, prosperity, reconciliation and categorically stated that it did not side with any particular stakeholder.

“We will remain be partners in peace with Afghanistan and will continue to play our role as a facilitator,” he said, a political solution through negotiations was in the interest of Afghanistan.

He welcomed the recent ceasefire between the Taliban and Afghan government, saying that the positive development would enable a conducive environment towards negotiations.

Qureshi dismissed that Pakistan would allow any military bases on its soil in the wake of withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

“We will not allow boots on ground or allow military bases,” he said.

He assured the Afghan government and people that Pakistan wanted a strong and stable Afghanistan and “will not interfere in their internal matters”.

On situation of Palestine, the foreign minister strongly condemned the Israeli attacks on innocent worshippers at Al Aqsa mosque and called upon the international community to get mobilized to diffuse the conflict.

Regarding the prime minister’s recent criticism on foreign missions, he said the purpose was to bring improvement and avoid negligence aimed at facilitating the overseas Pakistanis. However, he pointed that it was unnecessary to make public an in-house meeting as several officials, though worked at the embassies were reporting to their own ministries and not Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The foreign minister vowed to “never let down the morale of diplomats”, adding that a task force headed by Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood had been established and input asked from the missions abroad.