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Turkey backs Pakistan over NATO supplies

23 May, 2012

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan hold a joint press conference after a meeting at PM
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ISLAMABAD: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday supported Pakistan on resumption of NATO supplies, saying it is "an internal matter" of Pakistan.

While jointly addressing a press conference with Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani after the inking of nine agreements for cooperation in diverse fields, Erdogan said the opening of the NATO supply routes was the prerogative of Pakistan. "However, as a member of NATO, Turkey believes that such issues should be resolved through mutual dialogue," he said. The Turkish premier also endorsed Pakistan's demand for an apology from the US for the Salala border post attack that left 24 Pakistani troops dead.

Responding to a question, he said NATO has decided to withdraw from Afghanistan by 2014, but the date is not absolute and the pull back might be delayed. As for Turkey, he said it will withdraw from Afghanistan after all troops had left the country. He vowed Turkey is not going abandon its Afghan brothers.

Speaking about the government-opposition confrontation in Pakistan, Erdogan advised the opposition to be constructive and serve the country and people. He warned if the two sides kept fighting among themselves, the people of the country would suffer profoundly.

"We should put the people first. The state is secondary. The purpose of the state is only to serve the people, and not anything else," the Turkish premier observed. He also said Pakistan would be able to take the place it deserves in the world if the political parties in the country demonstrated shoulder-to-shoulder politics. Erdogan said the two countries have moved forward on the Preferential Trade Agreement and hope to sign it at the earliest.

"Let us continue with our bilateral investment and encourage entrepreneurship, not only to invest in each others country, but also to jointly invest in a third country," he said. He noted that with the inking of the latest nine agreements, the total had reached 100, which was reflective of the "unique friendship and the close relationship" between the two countries. The Turk premier said nine years back bilateral trade between the two countries was $175 million and has now risen to $1 billion. "It is our goal to raise it to $2 billion at the earliest."

Speaking at the conference, Prime Minister Gilani said the final decision to open the NATO supplies, and its timing, would be made in line with the recommendations of the parliamentary committee. However, he made it clear that "Pakistan wishes to move along with the world". "We wish to make it clear that Pakistan is the part of solution, and not the problem for Afghanistan." The prime minister reiterated Pakistan's stance that it supported a "stable, sovereign, prosperous and independent Afghanistan", and added that it desired a political solution that was Afghan-led and Afghan-owned.

He was appreciative of the support extended by Turkey's President Abdullah Gul to Pakistan at the NATO Summit in Chicago. "The world must have recognition of the services rendered by Pakistan in its fight against terrorism," Gilani told reporters. He said a decision based on the recommendations of the parliamentary committee would not only be long-lasting but also have the endorsement of the people of Pakistan.


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