ISLAMABAD – The foreign ministers of Russia and Pakistan insisted on Thursday that the ties between their countries are strengthening, despite grousing in the Pakistani media about Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to cancel a visit to Islamabad.
Putin was supposed to be in Pakistan this week as part of a summit involving Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Afghanistan, which also ended up being postponed.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who arrived Wednesday on a seemingly hastily scheduled visit, assured Pakistanis that Putin merely had scheduling issues and that he hoped to visit at a future date.
During a press conference Thursday, Lavrov and Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said the two countries were working on forging stronger bonds in areas such as the steel and energy sectors, as well as combatting drug smuggling. Also this week, Pakistan's army chief is visiting Moscow for talks with his Russian counterpart, suggesting a desire for more military cooperation.
Lavrov and Khar also discussed the conflicts in Afghanistan and Syria, as well as other crises in the Middle East and North Africa. Neither offered details about what they discussed, but Lavrov said "there is a convergence of views on all these issues."
The Russian foreign minister also expressed dismay over the violence at the Syrian-Turkish border. Turkey fired on Syrian targets for a second day Thursday after deadly shelling from Syria killed five civilians in a Turkish border town the previous day.
Russia, which has steadfastly supported the Syrian regime as it battles an armed uprising trying to topple President Bashar Assad, has been in touch with the Syrians about the shelling, Lavrov said.
Syria has promised to investigate the matter and "assured us such incidents will not happen in the future," he said.
Lavrov was also to meet with the Pakistani president and prime minister during his visit.