Record of Press briefing by Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman held on 5th September 2013

Islamabad, September 05, 2013 (PPI-OT):

[This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated]

The First Pakistan-China Foreign Ministry Spokespersons’ Dialogue was held in Beijing on August 30, 2013. I led the Pakistan delegation and the Chinese side was led by Mr. Qin Gang, Director General Information Department and Spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

The objective of the Dialogue was to discuss ways of harmonizing public diplomacy messages of the two Foreign Ministries at a time when the leadership and governments of Pakistan and China have embarked on tangible economic cooperation for the common benefit of the peoples of Pakistan and China and the region. We will be issuing a press release on this matter shortly.

The floor is now open for questions.

Question
US media is flooded with surveillance reports about so many things in Pakistan. Has the matter been raised formally with the US?

Secondly, what is the official position of Pakistan on these reports?

Answer
We have issued our official position on the Washington Post story. Today the US State Department has also issued a statement welcoming Pakistan’s statement. As a nuclear weapons state, Pakistan has established extensive physical protection measures, robust command and control institutions, and comprehensive and effective export controls regulatory regimes to ensure safety and security of nuclear installations and materials. We follow best international practices and standards set by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Question
Has the US embassy in Islamabad got in touch with you on the diplomatic platform regarding the story published in Washington Post?

Secondly, what is your reason for believing in the story published in Washington Post that it will not adversely affect the Pak-US relationship?

Answer
Yes we are in touch with the US authorities. As also noted by the US State Department spokesperson’s statement, Pakistan and the US have regular discussions on a range of issues of mutual interest including strategic issues, counter terrorism, energy, and situation in the region.

Question
Apart from the controversy on Syria about the use of chemical weapons, what is the policy of government of Pakistan on use of chemical weapons?

Answer
As a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Conventions, we regard the use of chemical weapons by any side as a matter of grave concern and condemn it in clear terms. At the same time we believe that the current allegations must be thoroughly investigated through an independent mechanism. The report of UN inspectors is important in this regard. Its finding must be examined closely by the international community with a view to evolving an acceptable way forward.

Question
Syrian situation is moving towards a regional or a global conflict in view of the current tussle between President Obama and President Putin and the threat that has emanated from the office of Bashar Al Asad that the situation can trigger a 3rd World War. What is your stance on this?

Secondly, there are reports that Hezbollah from Iran has been sending fighters to Syria to side with the Syrian regime. How do you view such kind of intervention?

Answer
We continue to view the situation in Syria with deep concern. Over the past two years we have seen conditions progressively deteriorate in this brotherly nation where hundred thousand people have lost their lives in fratricidal violence which continues to enlarge and claim more victims.

We believe that approach to address the situation in Syria must be guided by the time honored principles of interstate relations particularly those enshrined in the UN charter like respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, non interference in the internal affairs, and resolution of disputes through peaceful means. Any military action to address the current issues in Syria could have serious consequences and could plunge this already volatile region into deeper conflict.

Accordingly Pakistan remains opposed to the use of force, urges maximum restraint by all sides, underscores the need for dialogue among the Syrians and emphasizes optimal utilization of United Nations in search for a peaceful solution.

Question
What is the view of Pakistan in case the Saudi Arabia provides technical assistance for comforting the attack on Syria because Pakistan has very brotherly relations with Saudi Arabia?

Answer
As I said earlier, we urge all sides to pursue the policy of restraint and engage in a comprehensive political dialogue.

Question
Was the meeting of National Command Authority prompted by the report in the Washington Post or was it planned?

Secondly, please update us on Nawaz Sharif-Manmohan Singh meeting in the New York which is reportedly planned on 29th September 2013?

Answer
The meeting of the National Command Authority was already scheduled.

As for your second question, the meeting between the Prime Ministers of Pakistan and India on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly this month could be a useful opportunity to engage in a constructive dialogue to discuss ways of building mutual trust and improving bilateral relations. Date for the meeting is being worked out.

Question
There are media reports about forty Pakistani prisoners in Bagram Jail without any charges. What is the update on their release?

Answer
Pakistan remains fully seized of the issue. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs attaches great importance to the welfare of Pakistanis detained in Afghanistan. We remain in touch with the United States and relevant Afghan authorities as well as ICRC on this issue.

We have consistently emphasized that Pakistani nationals should be released. The release and transfer procedures some time entail delays. On our part we remain ready to facilitate the early and quick release/transfer of the detainees. Our Embassy and Missions in Afghanistan also remain in touch with the concerned Afghan authorities for the welfare of our nationals in Afghan prisons.

Question
What would be the stance of Pakistan if Saudi Arabia supports the US attack on Syria and what is your stance on the Russian statement about the attack on Saudi Arabia?

Answer
I have already answered this question. Pakistan has called on all sides to exercise restraint and engage in inclusive political dialogue to facilitate a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Syria in keeping with the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people.

Question
If United Nations does not support the foreign intervention in Syria but the attack is launched, what would be the stance of Pakistan?

Answer
I will not answer a speculative question. Pakistan has called on all sides to exercise restraint and engage in inclusive political dialogue to find an acceptable way forward.

Question
When you say that the dates for the meeting of Pakistani and Indian Prime Minister are being worked out, should we infer that, in principle, the two sides have made the decision for the meeting?

Secondly, there were so many Pakistanis in Egypt when General Sisi was killing his own people, how is the situation now as per the assessment of our Embassy and what is the status of Pakistanis in Syria?

Answer
As for your first question, the two governments are in touch with each other on this matter.

As for your second question, it is the earnest hope of the Government and the people of Pakistan that the nation of Egypt would be able to deal with its affairs in a manner that ensures political stability, sustained democracy and development of their country and prosperity and well-being of its people. Our Embassy is in touch with the Pakistani community living in Egypt and will provide all necessary assistance as required.

Question
Before two-three days the Israeli settlers have tried to occupy Masjid-Al-Aqsa where some Muslim Palestinians were offering their prayers and there were clashes between them. Did OIC or Pakistan (the leading country of OIC) take notice of this issue and what can be done for the residents of Al-Quds Al-Sharif to support them morally and practically?

Answer
I am not aware of this particular incident. However, as you are aware, Pakistan’s position on Palestinian issue has been clear and consistent. We have always supported the right of Palestinians to self-determination and to statehood with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as capital. We have always been supporting the Palestinian cause in our national capacity and as a member of OIC.

Question
I would like to draw your attention to the arrival of Ambassador Masood Ahmed Khan in Pakistan. What is the significance of his visit to Pakistan?

Answer
The National Command Authority meeting that took place today required the presence of our Ambassadors in New York, Geneva and Beijing. The three Ambassadors came here to attend the NCA meeting.

Question
I just want to know about D-10 meeting and what is agenda of the meeting?

Answer
I am not aware of that meeting. I will revert to you after ascertaining facts.

Question
Has Pakistan proposed any dates for the talks with India? We are hearing that 29th of September is what Pakistan has proposed?

Answer
I do not have information beyond what I just stated that the two governments are in touch with each other on that matter.

Question
As per the media reports published in Pakistan, the Indian Home Minister has said that Pakistan has agreed to handover the people wanted by India. If Pakistan has agreed to this then who are those people?

Does Pakistan subscribe to the statement of the Indian High Commissioner that the incidents which are carried out by non-state actors cast doubt on Pakistan’s sincerity on normalizing the relations?

Answer
I have not seen the Indian Home Minister statement you are referring to. As you are aware, the dialogue process between the two countries has not yet resumed. As and when it resumes all matters of concern to either country will come under discussion.

As for your second question referring to non-state actors, Pakistan’s position has always been very clear. We do not allow the territory of Pakistan to be used by anyone for committing acts of terrorism. But at the same time we also feel that when the dialogue is disrupted or interrupted for one reason or the other, we are actually strengthening the cause of those who do not wish to see peace. And that’s why we have always been urging that dialogue must continue. Howsoever difficult the issues may be, they should be settled on the table.

Question
Can you please tell us what kind of weapons has been used by India and Pakistan along the LoC?

Answer
This question may please be addressed to ISPR.

Question
Indian High Commissioner during his meeting with the Adviser, made a proposal that the two countries need to forge a common policy on counter terrorism. How this proposal is being viewed by Pakistan?

Answer
The government is devising a comprehensive counter terrorism policy. Terrorism in any form or manifestation is condemnable. Pakistan is itself a victim of terrorism and therefore, it makes a perfect sense for us to devote our full energies on countering terrorism. As for the remarks of the Indian High Commissioner you are referring to, our position is that Pakistan has always been ready to discuss all issues of bilateral concern, including the issue of terrorism, as part of the dialogue process.

Question
The visit of Pakistan’s Judicial Commission has been delayed. Can you please clarify the reasons for this?

Answer
The judicial commission was set to go. I understand that the flight got cancelled. So the visit and the meetings are being rescheduled.

Question
There are six Pakistanis in Guantanamo Bay prison. Has any concrete efforts been made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for their release?

Answer
Our Embassy in Washington has been seized of this issue. I don’t have any latest update on that. But as a matter of policy, Pakistan has been making every possible effort and providing the necessary assistance for the release of Pakistanis detained in Guantanamo Bay or anywhere else in foreign lands.

Question
Based on your diplomatic experience, recalling the 9/11 events and 2003 attacks on Iraq, do you see the current US-led attack on Syria or something could happen that could avert the situation?

Answer
I think I have answered that question. Pakistan as a non-permanent member of UN Security Council is following the situation in Syria and has urged all sides to pursue the policy of restraint and engage in a comprehensive political dialogue.

Question
Pakistan was considering to sign the two conventions i.e. The Council of Europe Convention and the US Convention. How much work has been done on this particular matter?

Answer
Our Cabinet has approved the proposal to accede to the Council of Europe Convention on transfer of prisoners. It may be noted that the Council of Europe Convention essentially provides a mechanism or legal framework for consideration of the possibility of transfer of prisoners to Pakistan to serve their prison terms here. Each case is to be discussed on its own merit. Further action with regard to the accession is being taken by Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Interior.

Question
In a report published in Hindustan Times regarding the backdoor dialogue between Shaharyar Khan from Pakistan and S. K. Lamba from India, India has blamed Hafiz Saeed for sending the freedom fighters to Kashmir to create the tension between Pakistan and India. What is your stance on this?

Answer
The Track-II dialogue is an important contribution to the peace process. However, we do not report on track-II meetings. On the issues you have raised, let me state that our position has been very clear on the LoC issue.

We believe that LoC ceasefire of 2003 must be respected. Recently there were repeated ceasefire violations by India. We expressed our concern on these violations on more than one occasion. We believe that a peaceful environment between the two countries could benefit the people of both countries. On the issue of terrorism, both sides have their respective concerns and these should be discussed in the mechanisms already available under the Composite Dialogue.

Question
If the attack on Syria is carried out, Pakistan would side with the US side or the Russian side?

What is the agenda of meeting between Manmoghan Signh and Nawaz Sharif?

What mechanism has been developed by Pakistan so far for the release of Pakistani detainees in Afghanistan?

Answer
On the issue of Syria I have already answered the question. Pakistan urges all sides to exercise restraint and engage in an inclusive political dialogue to find an acceptable way forward.
The proposed meeting between Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan could discuss the issues of mutual interest, the ways of building mutual confidence and improving bilateral relations.

On your question on detainees in Afghanistan, I have already answered this question.

For more information, contact:
Mr. Aizaz Ahmad Ch
Spokesman
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Government of Pakistan
Tell: 051-9205494
Fax: 051-9204202
Cell: 0336-5644459