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The leaders of Iran and Pakistan vow to boost trade in a meeting seeking to mend a diplomatic rift

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The leaders of Iran and Pakistan vow to boost trade in a meeting seeking to mend a diplomatic rift
News

News

The leaders of Iran and Pakistan vow to boost trade in a meeting seeking to mend a diplomatic rift

2024-04-23 03:15 Last Updated At:03:20

ISLAMABAD (AP) — The leaders of Iran and Pakistan agreed to strengthen economic and security cooperation in a meeting on Monday that sought to smooth over a diplomatic rift.

Ties were strained between the neighbors in January when each carried out strikes in the other’s territory, targeting militants accused of attacking security forces.

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In this photo released by Press Information Department, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, second left back, with Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, right back, witness a signing of MoUs of cooperation in different fields between Iran and Pakistan at prime minister house in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, April 22, 2024. Iranian and Pakistani leaders vowed to strengthen economic and security cooperation in a meeting on Monday, as the two countries seek to smooth over a diplomatic rift. (Press Information Department via AP)

ISLAMABAD (AP) — The leaders of Iran and Pakistan agreed to strengthen economic and security cooperation in a meeting on Monday that sought to smooth over a diplomatic rift.

In this photo released by Press Information Department, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, second left, holds official talks with Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, second right, at prime minister house in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, April 22, 2024. Iranian and Pakistani leaders vowed to strengthen economic and security cooperation in a meeting on Monday, as the two countries seek to smooth over a diplomatic rift. (Press Information Department via AP)

In this photo released by Press Information Department, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, second left, holds official talks with Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, second right, at prime minister house in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, April 22, 2024. Iranian and Pakistani leaders vowed to strengthen economic and security cooperation in a meeting on Monday, as the two countries seek to smooth over a diplomatic rift. (Press Information Department via AP)

In this photo released by Press Information Department, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, left, shakes hand with Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif prior to their meeting at prime minister house in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, April 22, 2024. Iranian and Pakistani leaders vowed to strengthen economic and security cooperation in a meeting on Monday, as the two countries seek to smooth over a diplomatic rift. (Press Information Department via AP)

In this photo released by Press Information Department, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, left, shakes hand with Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif prior to their meeting at prime minister house in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, April 22, 2024. Iranian and Pakistani leaders vowed to strengthen economic and security cooperation in a meeting on Monday, as the two countries seek to smooth over a diplomatic rift. (Press Information Department via AP)

In this photo released by Prime Minister Office, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, right, with Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, left, prays after planting a tree in the prime minister house in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, April 22, 2024. (Prime Minister Office via AP)

In this photo released by Prime Minister Office, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, right, with Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, left, prays after planting a tree in the prime minister house in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, April 22, 2024. (Prime Minister Office via AP)

In this photo released by Prime Minister Office, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, left, walks with Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif during a welcome ceremony in the prime minister house in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, April 22, 2024. (Prime Minister Office via AP)

In this photo released by Prime Minister Office, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, left, walks with Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif during a welcome ceremony in the prime minister house in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, April 22, 2024. (Prime Minister Office via AP)

In this photo released by Prime Minister Office, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, left, walks with Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif during a welcome ceremony in the prime minister house in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, April 22, 2024. (Prime Minister Office via AP)

In this photo released by Prime Minister Office, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, left, walks with Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif during a welcome ceremony in the prime minister house in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, April 22, 2024. (Prime Minister Office via AP)

In this photo released by Prime Minister Office, Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, left, greets to Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi upon his arrival in the prime minister house in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, April 22, 2024. (Prime Minister Office via AP)

In this photo released by Prime Minister Office, Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, left, greets to Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi upon his arrival in the prime minister house in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, April 22, 2024. (Prime Minister Office via AP)

In this photo released by Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi gets down from plane upon his arrival in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, April 22, 2024. Raisi arrived in Islamabad on a three-day visit on Monday, during which he will discuss a range of issues with authorities in Pakistan's capital, officials said. (Ministry of Foreign Affairs via AP)

In this photo released by Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi gets down from plane upon his arrival in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, April 22, 2024. Raisi arrived in Islamabad on a three-day visit on Monday, during which he will discuss a range of issues with authorities in Pakistan's capital, officials said. (Ministry of Foreign Affairs via AP)

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi met with Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and other officials on his three-day visit. Authorities deployed hundreds of additional police and paramilitary forces for security.

Pakistan has witnessed a surge in militant violence in recent months, mostly blamed on Pakistani Taliban and insurgents targeting security forces in Pakistan and neighboring Iran.

According to a statement, the two leaders discussed a range of bilateral issues and vowed to cooperate to fight terrorism. They reiterated their condemnations of Israel's war against Hamas in Gaza.

Sharif praised Iran’s “strong stand on the issue of Palestine” and said “Pakistan is also with the Palestinians.”

Raisi said the killings by Israel in Gaza were being committed with the support of the United States and other Western countries. He criticized international organizations, including the United Nations, saying, “They say they support human rights, but they proved that they are inefficient.”

The visit comes after Iran’s unprecedented direct strikes on Israel and an apparent Israeli response. Pakistan is among the countries that have no diplomatic relations with Israel because of the issue of Palestinian statehood.

Raisi also vowed to boost what he called “unacceptably” meager bilateral trade with Pakistan and called for setting up more border markets. Pakistan and Iran set up the first such border market in southwestern Pakistan's Baluchistan province last year, promising five more under a 2012 agreement.

The two leaders signed eight cooperation agreements, according to Sharif's office.

Authorities said the two sides also discussed a multi-billion gas pipeline project, on hold since 2014. The project — opposed by Washington as a violation of sanctions imposed on Tehran over its nuclear program — launched in 2013 to supply Iranian natural gas to energy-starved Pakistan.

Iran says it had already completed the pipeline on its side of the border after investing $2 billion. Pakistan was supposed to finish construction on its territory by the end of 2014 but work stalled, leading to tensions between the nations.

The Iranian president later met with his Pakistani counterpart Asil Ali Zardari, who helped launch the pipeline project after traveling to Iran in 2013.

On Monday night, Pakistan's powerful army chief Gen. Asim Munir met with the Iranian president, the military said in a statement. It said their discussion focused on "matters of mutual interest, notably regional peace, stability and border security.”

The statement said Munir described the Pakistan-Iran border as “the border of peace and friendship" but emphasized the need for improved coordination there “to prevent terrorists from jeopardizing the longstanding brotherly relations.”

It quoted Raisi as saying that by fostering cooperation between the militaries, Iran and Pakistan “can attain peace and stability for both nations and the region."

Raisi also met with Pakistan's Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar. The two discussed regional and global developments and “affirmed commitment to peace and constructive dialogue for resolving regional challenges."

Raisi is accompanied by his spouse and a high-level delegation. He plans to visit Karachi, Pakistan's biggest city, and Lahore, where he will meet with the country's recently elected first female chief minister, Maryam Nawaz Sharif.

In this photo released by Press Information Department, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, second left back, with Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, right back, witness a signing of MoUs of cooperation in different fields between Iran and Pakistan at prime minister house in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, April 22, 2024. Iranian and Pakistani leaders vowed to strengthen economic and security cooperation in a meeting on Monday, as the two countries seek to smooth over a diplomatic rift. (Press Information Department via AP)

In this photo released by Press Information Department, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, second left back, with Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, right back, witness a signing of MoUs of cooperation in different fields between Iran and Pakistan at prime minister house in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, April 22, 2024. Iranian and Pakistani leaders vowed to strengthen economic and security cooperation in a meeting on Monday, as the two countries seek to smooth over a diplomatic rift. (Press Information Department via AP)

In this photo released by Press Information Department, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, second left, holds official talks with Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, second right, at prime minister house in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, April 22, 2024. Iranian and Pakistani leaders vowed to strengthen economic and security cooperation in a meeting on Monday, as the two countries seek to smooth over a diplomatic rift. (Press Information Department via AP)

In this photo released by Press Information Department, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, second left, holds official talks with Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, second right, at prime minister house in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, April 22, 2024. Iranian and Pakistani leaders vowed to strengthen economic and security cooperation in a meeting on Monday, as the two countries seek to smooth over a diplomatic rift. (Press Information Department via AP)

In this photo released by Press Information Department, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, left, shakes hand with Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif prior to their meeting at prime minister house in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, April 22, 2024. Iranian and Pakistani leaders vowed to strengthen economic and security cooperation in a meeting on Monday, as the two countries seek to smooth over a diplomatic rift. (Press Information Department via AP)

In this photo released by Press Information Department, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, left, shakes hand with Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif prior to their meeting at prime minister house in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, April 22, 2024. Iranian and Pakistani leaders vowed to strengthen economic and security cooperation in a meeting on Monday, as the two countries seek to smooth over a diplomatic rift. (Press Information Department via AP)

In this photo released by Prime Minister Office, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, right, with Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, left, prays after planting a tree in the prime minister house in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, April 22, 2024. (Prime Minister Office via AP)

In this photo released by Prime Minister Office, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, right, with Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, left, prays after planting a tree in the prime minister house in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, April 22, 2024. (Prime Minister Office via AP)

In this photo released by Prime Minister Office, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, left, walks with Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif during a welcome ceremony in the prime minister house in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, April 22, 2024. (Prime Minister Office via AP)

In this photo released by Prime Minister Office, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, left, walks with Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif during a welcome ceremony in the prime minister house in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, April 22, 2024. (Prime Minister Office via AP)

In this photo released by Prime Minister Office, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, left, walks with Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif during a welcome ceremony in the prime minister house in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, April 22, 2024. (Prime Minister Office via AP)

In this photo released by Prime Minister Office, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, left, walks with Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif during a welcome ceremony in the prime minister house in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, April 22, 2024. (Prime Minister Office via AP)

In this photo released by Prime Minister Office, Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, left, greets to Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi upon his arrival in the prime minister house in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, April 22, 2024. (Prime Minister Office via AP)

In this photo released by Prime Minister Office, Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, left, greets to Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi upon his arrival in the prime minister house in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, April 22, 2024. (Prime Minister Office via AP)

In this photo released by Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi gets down from plane upon his arrival in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, April 22, 2024. Raisi arrived in Islamabad on a three-day visit on Monday, during which he will discuss a range of issues with authorities in Pakistan's capital, officials said. (Ministry of Foreign Affairs via AP)

In this photo released by Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi gets down from plane upon his arrival in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, April 22, 2024. Raisi arrived in Islamabad on a three-day visit on Monday, during which he will discuss a range of issues with authorities in Pakistan's capital, officials said. (Ministry of Foreign Affairs via AP)

KALAMATA, Greece (AP) — Nine Egyptian men went on trial in southern Greece on Tuesday, accused of causing a shipwreck that killed hundreds of migrants and sent shockwaves through the European Union’s border protection and asylum operations.

Outside the courthouse, a small group of protesters clashed with riot police as the proceedings got underway. There were no reports of serious injuries but two people were detained.

The defendants, most in their 20s, face up to life in prison if convicted on multiple criminal charges over the sinking of the “Adriana” fishing trawler on June 14 last year off the southern coast of Greece.

International human rights groups argue that their right to a fair trial is being compromised as they face judgment before an investigation is concluded into claims that the Greek coast guard may have botched the rescue attempt.

More than 500 people are believed to have gone down with the fishing trawler, which had been traveling from Libya to Italy. Following the sinking, 104 people were rescued — mostly migrants from Syria, Pakistan and Egypt — and 82 bodies were recovered.

The protesters could be heard inside the packed courtroom as presiding judge Eftichia Kontaratou read out the names of the nine defendants.

Defense lawyer Spyros Pantazis asked the court to declare itself incompetent to try the case, arguing that the sinking occurred outside Greek territorial waters. “The court be turned into an international punisher,” Pantazis told the panel of three judges. United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres last year described the shipwreck as “horrific."

The sinking renewed pressure on European governments to protect the lives of migrants and asylum seekers trying to reach the continent, as the number of people traveling illegally across the Mediterranean continues to rise every year.

Lawyers from Greek human rights groups are representing the nine Egyptians, who deny the smuggling charges.

“There’s a real risk that these nine survivors could be found ‘guilty’ on the basis of incomplete and questionable evidence, given that the official investigation into the role of the coast guard has not yet been completed,” said Judith Sunderland, an associate director for Europe and Central Asia at Human Rights Watch.

Authorities say the defendants were identified by other survivors and the indictments are based on their testimonies.

The European border protection agency Frontex says illegal border detections at EU frontiers increased for three consecutive years through 2023, reaching the highest level since the 2015-2016 migration crisis — driven largely by arrivals at the sea borders.

Police guard outside a court house in Kalamata, southwestern Greece, on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. Nine Egyptian men go on trial in southern Greece on Tuesday, accused of causing a shipwreck that killed hundreds of migrants and sent shockwaves through the European Union’s border protection and asylum operations. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Police guard outside a court house in Kalamata, southwestern Greece, on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. Nine Egyptian men go on trial in southern Greece on Tuesday, accused of causing a shipwreck that killed hundreds of migrants and sent shockwaves through the European Union’s border protection and asylum operations. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

A protester bleeds after clashes with police outside a court house in Kalamata, southwestern Greece, on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. Nine Egyptian men go on trial in southern Greece on Tuesday, accused of causing a shipwreck that killed hundreds of migrants and sent shockwaves through the European Union’s border protection and asylum operations. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

A protester bleeds after clashes with police outside a court house in Kalamata, southwestern Greece, on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. Nine Egyptian men go on trial in southern Greece on Tuesday, accused of causing a shipwreck that killed hundreds of migrants and sent shockwaves through the European Union’s border protection and asylum operations. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Police clash with protesters outside a court house in Kalamata, southwestern Greece, on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. Nine Egyptian men go on trial in southern Greece on Tuesday, accused of causing a shipwreck that killed hundreds of migrants and sent shockwaves through the European Union’s border protection and asylum operations. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Police clash with protesters outside a court house in Kalamata, southwestern Greece, on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. Nine Egyptian men go on trial in southern Greece on Tuesday, accused of causing a shipwreck that killed hundreds of migrants and sent shockwaves through the European Union’s border protection and asylum operations. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Police clash with protesters outside a court house in Kalamata, southwestern Greece, on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. Nine Egyptian men go on trial in southern Greece on Tuesday, accused of causing a shipwreck that killed hundreds of migrants and sent shockwaves through the European Union’s border protection and asylum operations. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Police clash with protesters outside a court house in Kalamata, southwestern Greece, on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. Nine Egyptian men go on trial in southern Greece on Tuesday, accused of causing a shipwreck that killed hundreds of migrants and sent shockwaves through the European Union’s border protection and asylum operations. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Two of nine Egyptian men accused of causing a shipwreck last year that killed hundreds of migrants arrive at a courthouse for the start of their trial in Kalamata, southwestern Greece, Tuesday, May 21, 2024. The defendants face up to life in prison if convicted on multiple criminal charges. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Two of nine Egyptian men accused of causing a shipwreck last year that killed hundreds of migrants arrive at a courthouse for the start of their trial in Kalamata, southwestern Greece, Tuesday, May 21, 2024. The defendants face up to life in prison if convicted on multiple criminal charges. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Two of nine Egyptian men accused of causing a shipwreck last year that killed hundreds of migrants arrive at a courthouse for the start of their trial in Kalamata, southwestern Greece, Tuesday, May 21, 2024. The defendants face up to life in prison if convicted on multiple criminal charges. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Two of nine Egyptian men accused of causing a shipwreck last year that killed hundreds of migrants arrive at a courthouse for the start of their trial in Kalamata, southwestern Greece, Tuesday, May 21, 2024. The defendants face up to life in prison if convicted on multiple criminal charges. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Two of nine Egyptian men accused of causing a shipwreck last year that killed hundreds of migrants arrive at a courthouse for the start of their trial in Kalamata, southwestern Greece, Tuesday, May 21, 2024. The defendants face up to life in prison if convicted on multiple criminal charges. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Two of nine Egyptian men accused of causing a shipwreck last year that killed hundreds of migrants arrive at a courthouse for the start of their trial in Kalamata, southwestern Greece, Tuesday, May 21, 2024. The defendants face up to life in prison if convicted on multiple criminal charges. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

One of nine Egyptian men accused of causing a shipwreck that killed hundreds of migrants waves as he is led by police to a courthouse in Kalamata, southwestern Greece, Tuesday, May 21, 2024. The defendants face up to life in prison if convicted on multiple criminal charges. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

One of nine Egyptian men accused of causing a shipwreck that killed hundreds of migrants waves as he is led by police to a courthouse in Kalamata, southwestern Greece, Tuesday, May 21, 2024. The defendants face up to life in prison if convicted on multiple criminal charges. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

One of nine Egyptian men accused of causing a shipwreck last year that killed hundreds of migrants waves as he is led by police to a courthouse in Kalamata, southwestern Greece, Tuesday, May 21, 2024. The defendants face up to life in prison if convicted on multiple criminal charges. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

One of nine Egyptian men accused of causing a shipwreck last year that killed hundreds of migrants waves as he is led by police to a courthouse in Kalamata, southwestern Greece, Tuesday, May 21, 2024. The defendants face up to life in prison if convicted on multiple criminal charges. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

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