Ukraine FM to visit Pakistan this week

ISLAMABAD: Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba is expected to visit Islamabad this Thursday, on a trip that will be closely monitored by Moscow as well as Ukraine’s allies.

According to sources, Kuleba will meet his Pakistani counterpart Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, and likely call on Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. He is also expected to meet military authorities.

There has been no official confirmation about the visit from either side.

Government officials have said that Pakistan wants the Ukraine-Russia war to end and hopes for “a peaceful resolution of the conflict”. This visit, however, may signal Pakistan’s willingness to accommodate western concerns with regards to the Russian invasion.

While Pakistan and Ukraine have maintained bilateral relations, including in the defence domain, Pakistan has consistently abstained from voting against Russia on United Nations National Assembly forums that call for the withdrawal of troops from Ukraine.

Last year, Foreign Minister Bilawal said that Islamabad was not taking sides in the conflict.

Islamabad’s position is influenced by its diplomatic obligation to maintain balance in ties with major world powers. The Foreign Office (FO) has said that “we want to have broad-based, objective, balanced and mutually beneficial relationships with all major powers”.

Earlier this year, there were reports that Pakistan was providing weapons to Ukraine, a claim strongly denied by Islamabad.

In April, in a BBC interview, Ukrainian army commander of the 17 tank battalion spoke about receiving rockets from other countries, including Pakistan.

FO spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch then told a briefing, “Pakistan maintains a policy of strict neutrality in the dispute between Ukraine and Russia and in that context, does not provide any ammunition to them.”

However, she also hinted that the Ukraine army may be deploying Pakistani ammunition supplied prior to the war.

“We must realize that in the past, Pakistan has had strong defence ties with Ukraine.”

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