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I am very pleased to host my good friend, [Shah Mahmood Qureshi] the Foreign Minister of Pakistan, here in Brussels to sign a new Strategic Engagement Plan between the European Union and Pakistan. I had the pleasure and the honour to visit you exactly three months ago in Islamabad for a very productive bilateral visit where we agreed on ambitious, strong, positive commitments from both of us. We also mentioned to the press there that we will sign these agreements as soon as possible and you have been so kind to come all the way for this important signature. I thank you for that.
These commitments go as much for our common bilateral agenda, from increased trade to protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, to create more opportunities for students, academics, researchers to come together, as they do for regional and international issues, such as our common, much needed support to the current Afghan peace talks.
I am very much looking forward to continuing our conversation that actually we started before my visit to Islamabad, but where we had a very substantial exchange – and to continue our cooperation in the coming months.
The Strategic Engagement Plan that we have just signed today is a forward-looking and very ambitious new political framework, which will enable us to further deepen our relations and enhance the level of our bilateral engagement while also addressing emerging global challenges. There are traditional areas of engagement that will remain prominent strands of our dialogue and cooperation, such as peace and security, democracy, the rule of law, good governance, human rights, migration and mobility, trade and investment.
In addition to all these fields that have already been at the centre of our cooperation, this Strategic Engagement Plan that we just signed will also allow us to cooperate in new and increasingly important areas such as energy, climate change, education, culture, science and technology, among many others. Let me thank you – but not only you - for the commitment, the friendship and also the availability to come and sign this important agreement. I would also like to thank our respective teams for their work on this agreement.
I would like to wish us all the best for its implementation which now begins. It is not the conclusion of the work for us; it is the beginning of a new chapter in the history of our partnership. If and when implemented fully, this agreement will bring direct benefits to our citizens in Europe, in Pakistan, but also in the wider region. We are very much looking forward to its implementation.
Thank you once again for being here.
Q. There are big tensions between India and Pakistan. What role can the EU play to reduce these tensions for regional peace? Pakistan is facing a very big financial challenge at the moment, losing almost 10 billion dollar, being in the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force. Four European Union Member States (France, Germany, the UK and the Netherlands) and UNSC members are opposing Pakistan being taken out of the grey list. In the next meeting in Paris in October, will you help Pakistan getting out of the grey list and have financial caution?
First of all, I want to confirm the Minister's view on the role of the European Union when it comes to the tensions between Pakistan and India. The European Union’s position is and has always been that of encouraging a constructive dialogue, sustained dialogue and for the two sides to find a sustainable and comprehensive way forward. We will always be there to support any principled and sustainable outcome of this dialogue that we continue to encourage.
On the Financial Action Task Force, we acknowledge Pakistan's efforts to implement the Action Plan. We will have an assessment that will be objective, technical, and based on performance. We are always ready to support the implementation of measures that are necessary and needed
Q. What commitments does this agreement demand of Pakistan in terms of human rights, in terms of the protection of minorities and rule of law and democracy? Will you discuss Iran and the tensions in the region around Iran this afternoon? If Iran does as it said it will do, and exceeds the cap on enriched uranium this week, will the EU or the E3 trigger the dispute resolution mechanism under the Iran deal?
I will refer to the fact that the text of the agreement we just signed will be made public. But the issues related to human rights and rule of law are already part of our cooperation, in a positive manner, so the dialogue in that field will continue.
We will discuss regional issues over our working lunch. I would expect our focus to be mainly around Afghanistan and the intra-Afghan talks, that were a very substantial part of my conversations in Islamabad three months ago. I was from there travelling to Kabul and I had very good talks not only with the Foreign Minister [of Pakistan, Shah Mahmood Qureshi] but also with the Prime Minister [of Pakistan, Imran Khan] very encouraging discussions that I would very much like to follow-up in this occasion. But I would also not be surprised if we would touch upon other regional situations and I guess the headlines on Iran would make it only normal for us to exchange views on developments there.
I can confirm to you that we will have a Joint Commission [of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA] meeting this Friday. We are trying all we can, not as of today but since the very beginning of the signature of the agreement, the entry into force of the agreement and then the decision from the United States to get out of the agreement. We have done, as the European Union, together with our Member States, with China, Russia and the rest of the international community, we have done all we could and we continue to do all we can to maintain the implementation of the agreement intact as it has been the case, until today.
We will continue to do so in these days, in probably the most difficult conditions you could imagine. As I already had the opportunity to say before, the deal has, in itself, mechanisms and steps that can be taken in case of non-compliance with the agreement. But the focus we keep today and we will still keep even more so in these days that are probably the most difficult ones for the agreement, is to keep the agreement in place and to keep full compliance with the agreement.
You will probably hear more from us in the coming days but, as you know, we have been working a lot with our Member States to put in place these mechanisms that allow legitimate trade with Iran to continue. I believe that this is now ready to be operational and I hope that this is something that can help to keep Iran compliant with the agreement, as it has been so far and as we all want to see this continue to be the case.