Bilawal lands in Moscow on two-day official visit – Pakistan

ISLAMABAD / WASHINGTON: Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari arrived in Moscow on Sunday on a two-day official visit.

The foreign minister and Commerce Minister Syed Naveed Qamar are also expected in Washington soon as part of Pakistan’s effort to re-engage with the US.

Upon his arrival in Moscow, Mr Bhutto-Zardari was received by senior officials of the Russian foreign ministry, Pakistan’s Ambassador to Russia Shafqat Ali Khan and other embassy officials.

According to the Foreign Office, Mr Bhutto-Zardari is visiting the Russian Federation at the invitation of his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.

The two foreign ministers are scheduled to meet on Monday (today) for official talks.

Foreign minister also invited to Washington

On Jan 19, a Russian delegation led by Russia’s Energy Minister Nikolay Shulginov visited Islamabad to discuss ways to improve bilateral economic and trade relations, with a focus on providing oil and gas to Pakistan at discounted rates.

The Russian minister said Pakistan could pay for energy purchases from Russia in the currencies of “friendly countries”.

Speaking to Dawn, Foreign Minister Bhutto-Zardari said: “I’ve been invited to speak at the international luncheon of the annual National Prayer Breakfast and will make an in-and-out trip for that.”

Trade talks

As for Commerce Minister Qamar’s visit to the United States, the dates have not yet been finalised, but he is expected to reach Washington late next month. His visit involves a major development: the revival of the ministerial-level talks on the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement.

TIFA provides strategic frameworks and principles for dialogue on trade and investment issues between the United States and its partners.

Mr Qamar will represent Pakistan at these talks, while US Trade Representative (USTR) Ambassador Katherine Tai will lead the American delegation. USTR is a cabinet-level position.

The last meeting between trade officials of the two countries was held in March 2022 in Islamabad, where Assistant US Trade Representative Christopher Wilson announced Pakistan and the US had decided to relaunch the TIFA process.

Although the foreign minister is expected at a non-governmental event — the prayer breakfast, Pakistan wants to avail this opportunity to reach out to US officials.

The prayer breakfast, which is addressed by the US president, has an added importance this year, as it will be the first to be organised by the US Congress because of the event’s increasing importance.

Senator Mark Pryor, an Arkansas Democrat, said members of Congress, the president, vice president and other administration officials and their guests are invited to this year’s breakfast, which will be held on Thursday at the visitors’ centre at the Capitol.

The foreign minister is also expected to visit New York in March to attend a UN-sponsored conference on Muslim women, being held on Pakistan’s initiative. The conference is expected on March 8.

He is also likely to attend another UN event in New York on March 15 to commemorate the International Day to Combat Islamophobia.

In Washington, however, the focus remains on the foreign and commerce ministers’ visit that Pakistani observers hope would help ease pressures on the ailing national economy.

Published in Dawn, January 30th, 2023

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