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US says ‘ties with a democratic Pakistan’ critical to its interests

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WASHINGTON: US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said that the US views the partnership with a prosperous, democratic Pakistan as critical to its interests.

Price said this during a press briefing on Wednesday when asked about the Pakistani premier’s scheduled meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

“We certainly hope, when it comes to those shared interests the aversion of a costly conflict, the aversion of a destabilizing conflict, that every country around the world would make that point clearly in unambiguous language in their engagements with the Russian Federation,” he added. 

Responded to a question related to Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Russia visit, stating that “we believe it’s the responsibility of every responsible country around the world to voice concern and to voice objection to what Putin appears to have in mind for Ukraine.”

He said that they have already apprised Islamabad of Washington’s position on Russia’s further escalation in Ukraine and “we have briefed them on our efforts to pursue diplomacy over war.”

The visit of Pakistan’s premier Imran has assumed international significance as Russia announced to launch an operation in Ukraine’s Donbas region. He would be the only world leader to meet Putin face-to-face amid the unfolding crisis in Ukraine.

Prime Minister Imran Khan Wednesday landed in Moscow for a two-day visit from February 23-24 to push for the construction of a long-delayed, multi-billion-dollar gas pipeline to be built in collaboration with Russian companies, an official said.

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov received the prime minister at the airport, while the Russian military presented a guard of honour to him.

The premier and his delegation will undergo a coronavirus test, while he will commence his activities at 11 am today.

PM Imran Khan’s trip to meet President Vladimir Putin and discuss issues including economic cooperation comes hours after a number of Western nations hit Russia with new sanctions for its military deployment into parts of eastern Ukraine.

During his meeting with Putin, PM Imran Khan will push for the construction of a long-delayed, multi-billion-dollar gas pipeline to be built in collaboration with Russian companies, an official told Reuters.

“Both countries are eager to launch the project at the earliest,” Pakistan’s energy ministry spokesman told Reuters about the Pakistan Stream gas pipeline. He confirmed that Energy Minister Hammad Azhar is accompanying Khan on the visit.

The 1,100 km (683 mile)-long pipeline, also known as the North-South gas pipeline, was initially agreed to in 2015 and was to be financed by both Moscow and Islamabad, using a Russian company to construct it.

In an interview ahead of his trip, PM Imran Khan had expressed concern about the situation in Ukraine and the possibility of new sanctions and their effect on Islamabad’s budding cooperation with Moscow.

It is unclear how the latest sanctions will affect the project, which would deliver imported Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) from Karachi on the Arabian Sea coast to power plants in Punjab.

The project is important for Pakistan particularly the power sector as the country’s dependence on imported LNG grows in the face of dwindling indigenous gas supplies.

The pipeline project has already suffered delays because of earlier sanctions.

“This North-South pipeline suffered, one of the reasons…was the companies we were negotiating with, turned out that US had applied sanctions on them,” Khan told Russia Today on Tuesday.

“So, the problem was to get a company that wasn’t sanctioned,” he said of the project.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin authorised a military operation in eastern Ukraine on Thursday in what appeared to be the start of the war in Europe over Russia’s demands for an end to NATO’s eastward expansion.

In response, President Joe Biden said the US and its allies will respond in a united and decisive way to “an unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces” on Ukraine and vows ‘severe sanctions on Russia.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called on Thursday for an immediate reaction to Russia’s aggression on Ukraine, seeking the “fiercest possible” sanctions.

“We must immediately respond to Russia’s criminal aggression on Ukraine,” Morawiecki wrote on Twitter.

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