Sartaj rejects claims of Syria policy shift

Posted by Admin On Wednesday, 26 February 2014 0 comments
A day after the government tried to assure the Senate of no policy shift on Syria, it followed suit in the lower house on Tuesday as it “vehemently rejected” media reports on a foreign policy U-turn. Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz made a policy statement in the National Assembly and clarified that it was not going to sell arms to Syrian rebels under Saudi influence.
Aziz said the impression that Pakistan has taken a foreign policy U-turn under the influence of Saudi Arabia was “irresponsible.” “We vehemently reject the allegation that we are going to sell arms to Syria.”
He referred to the joint statement issued during the visit of Saudi Crown Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz and said the two sides reiterated the need for finding a quick solution to the existing conflict in Syria according to the Geneva I Resolution.
Both sides called for: the importance of immediate withdrawal of all foreign armed forces and elements from Syrian territory; lifting siege of the Syrian towns and villages and stopping aerial and artillery bombardment; the setting up of safe corridors and regions to deliver food and humanitarian aid to besieged Syrian citizens under international supervision; and the formation of a transitional governing body with full executive powers enabling it to take charge of the affairs of the country.
But Aziz’s policy statement fell short of satisfying the opposition.
The moment he took his seat, Pakistan Peoples Party’s Syed Naveed Qamar rose to counter the statement, even though the rules of business do not allow cross-questioning a minister during a policy statement, which the speaker pointed out. He nevertheless stated, “Unfortunately, the statement has confirmed our apprehensions.”
Quoting the joint statement, he said, “For us to call for a change of government [transitional government] in Syria is tantamount to interference in their [internal] affairs.”
“There is an operation going on in our own country and you are meddling in affairs of others,” he decried. Qamar reiterated that Pakistan’s position had been to stand neutral over the Syrian crisis.
Endorsing his views, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s Dr Shireen Mazari said that asking for a transitional government was a big shift in foreign policy, which was not in the country’s national interest. She said foreign policy should not be moulded under the influence of allies.
However, Aziz stood his ground. “We will not be playing any role in Syria,” he clarified, adding, “Our policy is still to be neutral.”


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