Pakistan aims to boost trade ties with Turkey

- Pakistan’s National Security and Foreign Affairs Adviser Aziz has called Turkish PM Davutoglu’s interest and support for Pakistan as “extremely valuable.”

ISLAMABAD (AA) - Pakistan's priority is to enhance trade relations with Turkey, Pakistan’s National Security and Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz told The Anadolu Agency on Monday.

In an exclusive interview, Aziz termed Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s interest and support for Pakistan as "extremely valuable."

Davutoglu is expected to visit Islamabad between Feb. 17 and 18, where the fourth meeting of the Pakistan-Turkey High Level Strategic Cooperation Council will also take place. This will be the Turkish premier's first visit to Pakistan since assuming his post in August, 2014.

The council meeting is expected to focus on trade, energy, communications and transport, education and culture sectors.

- Economic ties

"Turkey has a very rich experience in infrastructure projects and there are many good and prominent Turkish companies investing in projects in Pakistan," Aziz said.

He said Pakistan wanted both countries to expand their trade cooperation further.

"In the last few years, the number of Turkish companies active in Pakistan increased," he said. However, the trade volume has been reduced because of Turkey’s increased duty on textile, he added.

According to the Turkish Statistical Institute, the trade volume between the two countries was $695.3 million in 2014. Aziz said that in 2011, the trade volume reached to $1 billion, but then it decreased to $800 million, and now it was around $600 million.

"We are negotiating with Turkey for the possibility of a free trade agreement that may allow duty free imports," Aziz said.

- Istanbul process

About a three-way regional cooperation process between Pakistan, Afghanistan and Turkey known as the "Istanbul process," Aziz said, "Turkey has been a very strong supporter of Afghanistan in the last few years because of its cultural, religious and economic links."

He stressed on Turkey’s role in the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

"The most significant initiative of Turkey was the Heart of Asia Istanbul process, which brought together 16 members and 50 observers in China," he said.

According to the initiative's official website, the Istanbul process provides a new agenda for regional cooperation in the “Heart of Asia” by placing Afghanistan at its center. The process is aimed at achieving a sincere and result‐oriented cooperation for a peaceful and stable Afghanistan.

Aziz added that all the countries in the process had unanimously endorsed the need for stability in Afghanistan.

About Afghanistan and Pakistan relations, Aziz added, "We have adopted a policy of non-interference. Afghanistan should resolve its problems by itself. We can help Afghanistan in reconstruction and development."

About the alleged presence of Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) in Pakistan, he said the presence of the militant group was not visible in his country.

- China's role

About China’s capacity to push the Afghan Taliban towards negotiations with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, he said, "No one can push the Taliban to the table."

"Both Pakistan and China can facilitate the negotiation process, but the reconciliation process is between Afghanistan (government) and the Taliban," he added.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi had said recently that Beijing was ready to facilitate peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

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