PM reached London to attend Queen funeral

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LONDON: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif Saturday arrived in Britain’s capital city on the invitation of British government, to represent Pakistan at the funeral of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, which would be held on September 19, announced the Foreign Office.

David Gordon-MacLeod, Special Representative of the British Foreign Secretary, received the prime minister at the airport.

Accompanying the prime minister as he left for London were Defence Minister Khwaja Asif, SAPM Tariq Fatemi and Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb.

Sharif returned from the SCO summit in Samarkand on Friday. It is expected that he will also take this opportunity to meet his brother, PMLN supremo, Nawaz Sharif. While the new British Prime Minister Liz Truss will be meeting a number of world leaders and holding informal talks, it is yet not confirmed whether a meeting with Shehbaz Sharif is on the cards.From amongst the Commonwealth countries, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe have reportedly accepted British invitations while India will be represented by President Droupadi Murmu. The BBC reported that representatives from Syria, Venezuela and Afghanistan had not been invited. This is because the UK does not have full diplomatic relations with these countries.

Later, Shehbaz will leave, most probably the next day, for New York to attend the 77th Session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) which will meet on September 20-26. Officials say the prime minister is expected to address the UNGA on September 23. He has several meetings that he is expected to address besides holding bilateral meetings on the sidelines, including with the heads of IMF and World Bank. Officials were tightlipped about a possible bilateral meeting between US President Joe Biden and Shehbaz Sharif, either on the sidelines of the UNGA or in Washington, for which efforts by senior officials are being made. Joe Biden will host a dinner for the heads of state and government in New York.

Senior officials at the Foreign Office said that a meeting between Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and his US counterpart Secretary of State Antony J Blinken has been finalised on September 26 in Washington. State Minister Hina Rabbani Khar has already reached New York, while Bilawal will leave shortly. The two ministers and the SAPM who accompanied the prime minister to London will also be with Bilawal in New York. It is also confirmed that the prime minister and foreign minister will attend the reception to be hosted by US President Joe Biden in New York. The prime minister will return to Pakistan immediately after he delivers his address at the UNGA.

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