Phnom Penh, 5 August 2022 (TDI): The Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, addresses the 29th ASEAN Regional Forum Ministerial Meeting on Friday.

The Pakistani Foreign Minister remarked:

H. E. Mr. Prak Sokhonn,
Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Cambodia,
Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen!

It is my honour to represent Pakistan at this 29th ASEAN Regional Forum Ministerial Meeting in the historic city of Phnom Penh.

I would like to thank the Cambodian Government for its gracious welcome and generous hospitality.

Congratulations to the ARF family for coming together at this important juncture in our collective efforts to promote dialogue and cooperation for peace and stability in the Asia Pacific.

As we gather today for in-person meetings after several months of long-distance diplomacy, our region and the world at large are beset with challenges in multiple domains.

Excellencies,

This is truly an inflection point in history, and the steps we take, or fail to take, would have profound consequences for the future.

The Covid-19 pandemic was unprecedented in terms of its global scale as well as socio-economic impact. The international cooperation and solidarity that it engendered was also unparalleled.

Yet, we also saw the unfortunate rise of the phenomenon of vaccine nationalism as countries competed for the same resources to save lives and protect their populations.

Going forward, it would be important to develop mechanisms and processes for a more coordinated response to future health crises, undertake efforts to ensure vaccine equity, and fight future pandemics in a more humane manner.

Covid-19 exacerbated the economic woes of nations from North to South. Supply and value chains were disrupted, unemployment mounted, growth rates plummeted, and debt burden accumulated.

The Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) was laudable for providing much needed relief to developing countries in distress. More can, and should, be done for reinforcing the recovery efforts, especially in the global South.

Climate change is an existential threat, and its impact on sustainable development and human well-being is incalculable.

As I speak, my country is ravaged by floods caused by unprecedented rains.  Dozens of towns and villages have been inundated and thousands have been displaced.

We fear that the damage to crops would exacerbate food insecurity and inflation that have already reached alarming levels because of the current global trends.

We need to collectively respond to the threat posed by climate change — by equitably sharing the burden and the responsibility. In order to mitigate its negative impact and to adapt meaningfully, the promised climate finance must be made available to the developing countries.

The skyrocketing of fuel and food prices has imposed new costs – from economic to social to political. For citizens, the burden has been increasingly unbearable; for governments, the pressures unsustainable. The volatility of international markets is intensified due to heightened tensions and ongoing military conflict.

Urgent measures are required to contain and reverse these adverse trends. The world community must join hands to find collective solutions, particularly those that work for the most gravely impacted nations. They have limited financial capacity and require greater international support, solidarity and cooperation.

Excellencies,

The most obvious challenge is evident in the realm of geo-politics. Today, the global environment is in tremendous flux, the international system distinctly fragile and adrift.

Rivalries have accentuated; bloc politics seems to be returning; new groupings and small configurations are emerging – with potential military dimensions in certain instances.

Confrontation will not serve anyone’s interest. It will only result in disruption, destabilization and potential conflict. The consequences of such an eventuality would be grave – not just for the protagonists, but for everyone.

At this defining moment, it is indispensable to avoid unilateral, provocative or precipitate actions and to proceed with the utmost caution and prudence.

Pakistan believes that a recommitment to the fundamental principles of the UN Charter and to effective multilateralism is imperative. Equally imperative is the need to have a coherent vision of a world order based on peaceful coexistence, pacific settlement of disputes, win-win cooperation, and shared prosperity.

Excellencies,

The continuation of the Ukrainian conflict remains a matter of deep concern. This reflects the failure of diplomacy.

Cessation of hostilities, continued focus on humanitarian needs, and resumption of sustained dialogue, are essential. However challenging, the quest for a diplomatic solution in accordance with relevant multilateral agreements, international law, and the provisions of the UN Charter, must continue apace.

In this context, we welcome the recent agreement brokered by Turkiye and the United Nations to free up grain exports from the Black Sea ports.

We also believe that, while focusing on the Ukrainian conflict, the world must not lose sight of other disputes, protracted conflicts, and situations of foreign occupation, which have the potential to destabilize the entire Asia-Pacific region.

Peaceful resolution of long-standing disputes in South Asia is critical for sustainable peace and long-term prosperity of our peoples.

We strongly condemn and reject illegal and unilateral measures to perpetuate unlawful occupation and to effect demographic changes in occupied territories, in gross violation of UN Security Council resolutions and international law, including the 4th Geneva Convention.

Such actions have vitiated the environment for meaningful and result-oriented dialogue. Given the right conducive conditions, all outstanding disputes can be resolved through dialogue and diplomacy in the interest of regional peace, stability, and prosperity.

Excellencies,

A peaceful, stable, prosperous and connected Afghanistan is critical for our region.

Pakistan has emphasized the importance of inclusivity in governance and respect for the human rights of all Afghans, especially women and girls. There is also a shared expectation that Afghanistan’s soil will not be allowed to be used for terrorism against any country.

To address the economic and humanitarian challenges, we have called for de-freezing of Afghanistan’s financial assets and de-linking humanitarian assistance from political considerations.

In our view, constructive engagement and practical cooperation between the Afghan Interim authorities and the international community will serve to improve mutual understanding and promote common goals.

Excellencies,

This is the Asian Century. The demographic and economic potential of our region is enormous. A peaceful and stable Asia-Pacific is a priority for Pakistan.

We are of the firm view that our region should not become an arena for strategic competition. We continue to emphasize the need for win-win solutions.

We have full faith in an ASEAN-led ARF, a vital platform, for promoting open dialogue on political and security cooperation in the region. It has immense potential for both conflict management and resolution, and inclusive security cooperation. We hope this potential would be utilized optimally.

Pakistan stands ready to work with ARF partners to strengthen this Forum and to develop its linkages with other international platforms for confidence building and conflict prevention.

Our aspiration for a full dialogue partnership is a sign of our continued commitment to relations with ASEAN.

Pakistan will remain a strong partner in all endevours for peace, stability and development of our region and beyond.
I thank you.

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