Should Pakistan have diplomatic relations with Israel

Israel and Pakistan are getting closer diplomatically

Islamabad - Pakistan and Israel paved the way for diplomatic relations for the first time in their history. Pakistan wants to move closer to the Jewish state diplomatically, said Foreign Minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri on Thursday after a historic meeting with his Israeli colleague Silvan Shalom in the Turkish city of Istanbul. It was the first official meeting of senior representatives from both countries.

With the rapprochement with Israel, the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip should be honored, said Kasuri after meeting with Shalom in Istanbul, Turkey. "Pakistan attaches great importance to the end of the occupation of Gaza. We see this development as the beginning of the end of the Israeli occupation," said Kasuri. It is the start of a process towards a Palestinian state that exists peacefully and securely alongside Israel.

A sovereign Palestinian state required

Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf made it clear, however, that official relations would only be established if there was a sovereign Palestinian state. Shalom spoke of a breakthrough and said he was now hoping for new avenues of dialogue with the Muslim world. Israel is diplomatically avoided by most of the Arab states. The deal is seen as the first sign of a thawing of these previously frosty relationships. Political observers in Pakistan assume that the Islamic country will initially not recognize Israel, but will nevertheless maintain direct contact with the Jewish state.

"I am sure that we will establish diplomatic relations in the end, it is only a matter of time," said Shalom. Israel is also striving to establish relations with other Arab states. "I hope this won't be the last stop," he said. "But today we have already taken a very important step." In two weeks he will meet his Pakistani counterpart at the United Nations in New York to agree further details.

Shalom envisioned full diplomatic relations with Pakistan. In the same way, they would gradually be pursued with all other Arab countries. "We achieved a major breakthrough today," commented the Israeli minister on the rapprochement. Israel has so far only had diplomatic relations with four Muslim countries - Egypt, Jordan, Turkey and Mauritania. Business contacts exist with Morocco, Tunisia and Qatar.

The Israeli radio reported that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf had prepared the first meeting of high-ranking representatives of Israel and Pakistan in Turkey himself. Most recently, he had spoken out in favor of entering into a dialogue with Israel several times.

Riaz Mohammed Khan of the Pakistani Foreign Ministry said it was primarily a gesture to Israel "to underscore the importance Islamabad attaches to the end of the Israeli occupation of Gaza." On the Palestinian question, the Pakistani position was unchanged, they continued to demand an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.

The Pakistani Foreign Ministry announced that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah had been informed in advance of Pakistan's plans for rapprochement with Israel. Abdullah is expected in Israel next week to express his support for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's withdrawal plan.

According to diplomats, there have been informal contacts between Israel and Pakistan in the past few months. Turkey, a secular state with a predominantly Muslim population, acted as a mediator, said an Israeli diplomat. Experts assumed that one of Pakistan's motives in drawing closer to Israel was to create a counterweight to the growing military contacts between Israel and India. Pakistan and India are archenemies and have waged war against each other several times.

With the evacuation of all Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip and four settlements in the West Bank, Israel gave up land for the first time last month that the Palestinians claim for a state of their own. According to Israeli security circles, the evacuation of the Gaza Strip should be completed by September 15 with the withdrawal of the last soldier. (APA / Reuters / dpa)