Pakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari welcomes Foreign Minister of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on July 20, 2023. This is the first-ever visit of a Ukrainian foreign minister to Pakistan. Image Credit: Pakistan Foreign Office

Islamabad: Pakistani and Ukrainian foreign ministers agreed to strengthen the bilateral relationship in diverse domains, following the conclusion of a comprehensive discussion in Islamabad on Thursday.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and his counterpart Dmytro Kuleba said that the two countries have enjoyed an “excellent relationship” with cooperation in areas ranging from agriculture to defence.

“We aspire to build a mutually beneficial relationship that contributes to the prosperity and well-being of our nations,” Bilawal said during a joint media stakeout. He added that the two states agreed on the importance of regular dialogue and engagement to further strengthen our bilateral ties.

Dmytro Kuleba is the first Ukrainian foreign minister to visit Pakistan in 30 years. Reciprocating the comments by his Pakistani counterpart, Kuleba said that it was “a big honour” to be the first Ukrainian foreign minister to visit Pakistan. However, he regretted the low level of interaction between the two countries that established diplomatic ties in 1993.

He thanked Pakistan for providing humanitarian aid and said “Friends help each other in time in times of greatest need.” He expressed hope for a strengthened partnership under the upcoming inaugural meeting of the Ukrainian Pakistani Commission on economic cooperation. The minister also offered Ukraine’s support to Pakistan in the digitalization of state services.

Black Sea grain initiative

Both sides expressed regret over the halt of the grain deal, discussing its consequences on global food security. Kuleba lamented that several Asian and African countries will suffer from Russia’s withdrawal from a wartime deal that allowed the export of Ukrainian grain across the Black Sea. The termination of the agreement, brokered by Turkey and the United Nations in July last year, has renewed fears about global food security.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba held extensive talks with Pakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Foreign Office officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on July 20, 2023. Image Credit: Pakistan Foreign Office

Bilawal said that food inflation, and supply disruption due to the conflict would impact developing countries including Pakistan. In response to a question, the Pakistani foreign minister said that he plans to take up the issue with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and his counterparts in Turkiye and Russia officials to discuss Pakistan’s food security concerns and help restore the grain initiative.

“The Black Sea grain initiative was a positive undertaking by the United Nations, Turkiye, Ukraine, and Russia. It is not only in our interest but in the developing world’s interest that this grain initiative is restored” Bilawal said. Ukrainian foreign minister appreciated Pakistan’s pledge to support the effort.

Dmytro Kuleba called for the restoration of the Black Sea grain initiative mentioning global food insecurity. The restoration is important “to return balance to the global food market, to return prices under control, to give Ukraine the possibility to provide cereals to the countries who need it the most,” Kuleba said.

Ukraine’s situation discussed

The two sides also discussed the situation in Ukraine. Pakistani foreign minister shared “deep concern at the prevailing situation” and offered condolences on the loss of precious lives and human suffering.

He mentioned that Pakistan has sent humanitarian assistance to Ukraine in a gesture of solidarity with the people of Ukraine. Prolonged conflict brings immense hardship and sufferings to civilian populations, Bilawal said, as he reiterated Pakistan’s readiness to support peace initiatives.

The Pakistani minister noted that long-standing regional conflicts could endanger “our collective security” and spark fuel, food, and fertilizer shortages all over the world. Pakistan expressed hope for a peaceful resolution through dialogue and diplomacy.