France on Tuesday agreed to work towards reviving Pakistan’s economy in the aftermath of the recent climate change-induced devastating floods.
The decisions were announced through a joint statement after Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and French President Emmanuel Macron held a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the 77th Session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in New York.
The meeting was the first encounter by the country’s prime minister with the leader of a key European country in seven years.
Shehbaz was joined by Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Finance Minister Miftah Ismail, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar and Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb.
It was also decided that France will host an international conference before the end of the year, aiming at contributing to the rehabilitation and reconstruction of flood-affected people and areas of Pakistan.
Besides the exchange of views on enhancing bilateral relations, the two leaders agreed to mobilis international support for Pakistan to help recover and rebuild its economy on a sustainable footing.
In order to gather the relevant international financial partners and development partners, “France will host an international conference before the end of the year aiming at contributing to the rehabilitation and the reconstruction of flood-affected areas of Pakistan and, with the help of climate-resilient reconstruction related financing, to accelerate the transition to renewable energy.”
The statement was simultaneously issued in Islamabad and Paris.
The prime minister reaffirmed the high importance Pakistan attached to its long-standing friendly relations with France — both bilaterally and in the context of the European Union.
He stressed the importance of further strengthening the bilateral relations across a range of areas, including trade and investment, energy, agriculture, IT, defence and security, and higher education.
The prime minister also thanked France for its support for GSP+ scheme, noting that it served to enhance trade and economic ties with the European Union as well as France.
The two leaders agreed to closely work together to identify ways and means to support Pakistan in its efforts to come out of the formidable challenge and build back a resilient infrastructure with the help of international support.
The prime minister expressed gratitude to the French president for solidarity and support for the flood-affected people in Pakistan and for sending timely assistance of tents, water pumps and a team of doctors and nurses.
The prime minister hoped that France would also contribute towards the government’s efforts in the rehabilitation and reconstruction phase.
He apprised the French president of the devastation caused by the massive climate-induced floods across Pakistan and the government’s steps to address the dire situation.
The prime minister added that despite having a negligible contribution to the global carbon footprint, Pakistan was among the most vulnerable to its devastation as manifested in the unprecedented floods.
He stressed that climate change was a potential area of cooperation between the two countries and for collective global action.
The two leaders reviewed bilateral relations, and exchanged views on regional and international issues.
The relations between the two countries saw a dip because of protests by a religious group over the past few years against France on the issue of blasphemy.
The PTI government, too, did not make any effort to improve ties with France, a key EU player and a permanent member of the UNSC.
After the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, the French president wanted to speak to then Prime Minister Imran Khan to thank Pakistan for its help in evacuation efforts but the PTI chairman refused to give time for the call. Macron never approached Imran again.
But the meeting between Shehbaz and Macron may break the ice though there is no major development expected in the bilateral relationship given France has close ties with India.
Nevertheless, France, a key member of FATF, can help Pakistan’s case when it will decide its face in the next meeting scheduled in Paris in October.
The FATF onsite team visited Pakistan earlier this month to verify the steps taken by the country to implement the financial watchdog’s plan of action.
The successful outcome of the visit would pave the way for Pakistan exiting the grey list.
Shehbaz also held bilateral meetings with the presidents of Iran, Spain and Chancellor of Austria. He also attended the welcome reception hosted by the UN Secretary-General. Shehbaz is scheduled to hold more bilateral meetings.