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'Need for continued, uninterrupted dialogue with India,' says Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi

'Need for continued, uninterrupted dialogue with India,' says Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi, in his first press conference as foreign minister, emphasised the importance of fostering better relations with neighbouring countries.

"I will try to bridge the trust deficit between Pakistan and other regional countries," Qureshi told journalists at the Foreign Office in Islamabad on Monday.

The foreign minister began his press conference with Afghanistan, addressing the people of the neighbouring country and their leader Ashraf Ghani.

He spoke of his intention to contact his Afghan counterpart and pay a visit to Kabul. "I want to bring a solid message to the people of Afghanistan. The two countries share a future and geography, and we have to work together and begin our long journey."

Qureshi also directly addressed Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, saying: "We are neighbours. We have long-standing issues, both of us know these problems. But we have no other option but to engage in dialogue. We cannot afford adventurism." "These issues are complicated and we may face hurdles in resolving them, but we must engage. We will have to admit that we are facing problems, we must admit that Kashmir is a reality. The Islamabad declaration is a part of our history," he added.

"There is a need for continued, uninterrupted dialogue. This is the only way forward, in my opinion."

"We may have a different approach and line of thinking, but I want to see a change in how we behave," he said.

"India and Pakistan have to move forward keeping realities before them," he asserted, adding that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has written a letter to PM Imran Khan, in which he has indicated the beginning of talks between the two countries.

Qureshi said he would consult former foreign ministers Hina Rabbani Khar and Khawaja Asif.

Qureshi, who addressed today's press conference just an hour after being sworn into the ministry, previously served as foreign minister during the last PPP government between 2008-13 under then president Asif Zardari and former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. Qureshi had resigned from the cabinet after developing differences with the party leadership during a reshuffle in the cabinet.

Qureshi had also once served as provincial finance minister in the cabinet of Nawaz Sharif when he was the chief minister of the Punjab during the military rule of Gen Ziaul Haq.

More details to follow.

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