ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan spoke to EU Council President Charles Michel on Monday and expressed concern over the Russian invasion of Ukraine, saying Islamabad was willing to play a “facilitating role” to reach a diplomatic solution.
Russia has attacked Ukraine from the north, east and south, pounding cities including Kyiv, Kharkiv and the port of Mariupol. The invasion launched on February 24 has caused the worst refugee crisis in Europe since World War Two, provoked outrage across the world, and led to heavy sanctions on Moscow.
“Earlier today I spoke with EU Council President @CharlesMichel about the Ukraine situation,” Khan said on Twitter. “Shared concern over continued military conflict, highlighted its adverse economic impact on developing countries, stressed urgent need for cease-fire & de-escalation.”
“I emphasized the importance of humanitarian relief & reiterated call for a solution through dialogue & diplomacy. We agreed that countries like Pakistan could play a facilitating role in this endeavour. I look forward to close engagement to promote shared objectives.”
Khan hit out on Sunday at Islamabad-based Western envoys who last week urged Pakistan to condemn Russia’s actions in Ukraine, asking them if they thought Pakistan was their “slave..”
The heads of 22 diplomatic missions, including those of European Union member states, released a joint letter on March 1 urging Pakistan to support a resolution in the United Nations General Assembly condemning Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.
The move to release the letter publicly was rare.
“What do you think of us? Are we your slaves ... that whatever you say, we will do?” Khan said while addressing a political rally.
In the event, Pakistan, a traditional ally of the West, abstained from voting as the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly reprimanded Russia for invading Ukraine.
“I want to ask the European Union ambassadors: Did you write such a letter to India?” Khan said, noting that Pakistan’s arch-rival had also abstained.
Khan also said European countries had not censured India for its actions in Kashmir, a mountainous region over which Pakistan and India have fought two wars.
He said Pakistan had suffered because it had supported the Western NATO alliance in Afghanistan, and instead of gratitude faced criticism.
Khan and his government found themselves in the spotlight after he went ahead with a visit to Moscow in late February as fears of an invasion were growing, and met Vladimir Putin a few hours after the Russian president had ordered his troops into Ukraine.
“We are friends with Russia, and we are also friends with America; we are friends with China and with Europe; we are not in any camp,” Khan added, saying Pakistan would remain “neutral” and work with those trying to end the war in Ukraine.
On Friday, a Pakistani foreign office spokesman said it was “not usual diplomatic practice” for envoys to make appeals such as their letter public, “and we have made that clear.”
Russia on Monday told Ukraine it was ready to halt military operations “in a moment” if Kyiv meets a list of conditions, the Kremlin spokesman said on Monday.
Dmitry Peskov said Moscow was demanding that Ukraine cease military action, change its constitution to enshrine neutrality, acknowledge Crimea as Russian territory, and recognize the separatist republics of Donetsk and Lugansk as independent states.
It was the most explicit Russian statement so far of the terms it wants to impose on Ukraine to halt what it calls its “special military operation,” now in its 12th day.
Peskov told Reuters in a telephone interview that Ukraine was aware of the conditions. “And they were told that all this can be stopped in a moment.”
There was no immediate reaction from the Ukrainian side.
The outlining of Russia’s demands came as delegations from Russia and Ukraine prepared to meet on Monday for a third round of talks aimed at ending Russia’s war against Ukraine.
It began soon after Putin recognized two breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian government forces since 2014, as independent — an action denounced as illegal by the West.