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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)

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea’s military said Friday it had fired warning shots the previous day to repel North Korean soldiers who temporarily crossed the rivals’ land border for the third time this month. Meanwhile, an activists’ group said it flew more balloons carrying propaganda leaflets toward North Korea, continuing a campaign that has aggravated animosities between the rivals and prompted a resumption of Cold War-style psychological warfare along their border.

The intrusions are likely related to the large number of troops North Korea has been deploying in frontline areas to fortify their side of the border, possibly to prevent civilians and soldiers from defecting to the South, as Pyongyang’s leadership continues to tighten its grip over the population.

The South Korean civilian activists, led by North Korean defector Park Sang-hak, said it floated 20 balloons attached with 300,000 propaganda leaflets, 5,000 USB sticks with South Korean pop songs and TV dramas, and 3,000 U.S. dollar bills from the South Korean border town of Paju on Thursday night.

Pyongyang resents such material and fears it could demoralize front-line troops and residents and eventually weaken leader Kim Jong Un’s grip on power, analysts say.

After previous leafletting by Park’s group and other South Korean activists, North Korean launched more than 1,000 balloons that dropped tons of trash in South Korea, smashing roof tiles and windows and causing other property damage.

In retaliation for the trash balloons, South Korea resumed anti-North Korea propaganda broadcasts with military loudspeakers installed at the border for the first time in years, to which Pyongyang warned that Seoul was “creating a prelude to a very dangerous situation.”

Tensions between the Koreas are at their highest in years as Kim accelerates his nuclear weapons and missile development and attempts to strengthen his regional footing by aligning with Russian President Vladimir Putin in a standoff against the U.S.-led West.

On Thursday, South Korea’s government condemned an agreement by Kim and Putin at their summit this week in which their nations vowed to come to each other’s defense in the event of war. In turn, Seoul said it will consider sending arms to Ukraine to help it fight Russia’s invasion.

South Korea, a growing arms exporter with a well-equipped military backed by the United States, has provided humanitarian aid and other support to Ukraine while joining U.S.-led economic sanctions against Moscow. But it has not directly provided arms to Ukraine, citing a long-standing policy of not supplying weapons to countries actively engaged in conflict.

Putin told reporters in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Thursday that supplying weapons to Ukraine would be “a very big mistake” on South Korea’s part. He also said South Korea “shouldn’t worry” about the agreement, if Seoul isn’t planning any aggression against Pyongyang.

North Korea is extremely sensitive to any outside criticism about Kim’s authoritarian rule and his absolute control over its people, most of whom have little access to foreign news.

South Korea’s military said there are signs that North Korea was installing its own speakers at the border, although they weren’t yet working.

In 2015, when South Korea restarted loudspeaker broadcasts for the first time in 11 years, North Korea fired artillery rounds across the border, prompting South Korea to return fire, according to South Korean officials. No casualties were reported.

In the latest incursion, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said several North Korean soldiers engaged in unspecified construction work on the northern side of the border briefly crossed the military demarcation line that bisects the countries at around 11 a.m. Thursday.

The South Korean military in response broadcasted a warning and fired warning shots, to which the North Korean soldiers retreated. The joint chiefs didn’t immediately release more details, including why it was releasing the information a day late.

South Korea’s military has said it believes the previous two border intrusions this month weren’t intentional as the North Korean soldiers have retreated after the warning shots and the North has not returned fire.

The South’s military has observed the North deploying large numbers of soldiers in frontline areas to build suspected anti-tank barriers, reinforce roads and plant mines in an apparent attempt to fortify their side of the border. Seoul believes the efforts are likely aimed at preventing North Korean civilians and soldiers from escaping to the South.

In this undated photo provided on Tuesday, June 18, 2024, by South Korea Defense Ministry, North Korean soldiers work at an undisclosed location near the border area, as seen from a South Korean guard area. South Korean soldiers fired warning shots to repel North Korean soldiers who temporarily crossed the rivals' land border Tuesday for the second time this month, South Korea's military said. (South Korea Defense Ministry via AP)

In this undated photo provided on Tuesday, June 18, 2024, by South Korea Defense Ministry, North Korean soldiers work at an undisclosed location near the border area, as seen from a South Korean guard area. South Korean soldiers fired warning shots to repel North Korean soldiers who temporarily crossed the rivals' land border Tuesday for the second time this month, South Korea's military said. (South Korea Defense Ministry via AP)

In this undated photo provided on Tuesday, June 18, 2024, by South Korea Defense Ministry, North Korean soldiers work at an undisclosed location near the border area, as seen from a South Korean guard area. South Korean soldiers fired warning shots to repel North Korean soldiers who temporarily crossed the rivals' land border Tuesday for the second time this month, South Korea's military said. (South Korea Defense Ministry via AP)

In this undated photo provided on Tuesday, June 18, 2024, by South Korea Defense Ministry, North Korean soldiers work at an undisclosed location near the border area, as seen from a South Korean guard area. South Korean soldiers fired warning shots to repel North Korean soldiers who temporarily crossed the rivals' land border Tuesday for the second time this month, South Korea's military said. (South Korea Defense Ministry via AP)

In this undated photo provided on Tuesday, June 18, 2024, by South Korea Defense Ministry, North Korean soldiers work at an undisclosed location near the border area, as seen from a South Korean guard area. South Korean soldiers fired warning shots to repel North Korean soldiers who temporarily crossed the rivals' land border Tuesday for the second time this month, South Korea's military said. (South Korea Defense Ministry via AP)

In this undated photo provided on Tuesday, June 18, 2024, by South Korea Defense Ministry, North Korean soldiers work at an undisclosed location near the border area, as seen from a South Korean guard area. South Korean soldiers fired warning shots to repel North Korean soldiers who temporarily crossed the rivals' land border Tuesday for the second time this month, South Korea's military said. (South Korea Defense Ministry via AP)

In this photo provided by Fighters For A Free North Korea, North Korean defector Park Sang-hak, left, and a member of Fighters For A Free North Korea hold balloons bearing anti-North Korean propaganda leaflets in Paju, near the border with North Korea, South Korea, Thursday, June 20, 2024. A South Korea activists' group said Friday it again flew large balloons carrying anti-North Korean propaganda leaflets toward North Korea, adding to a campaign that aggravated animosities between the rivals and prompted a resumption of Cold War-style psychological warfare along their border. (Fighters For A Free North Korea via AP)

In this photo provided by Fighters For A Free North Korea, North Korean defector Park Sang-hak, left, and a member of Fighters For A Free North Korea hold balloons bearing anti-North Korean propaganda leaflets in Paju, near the border with North Korea, South Korea, Thursday, June 20, 2024. A South Korea activists' group said Friday it again flew large balloons carrying anti-North Korean propaganda leaflets toward North Korea, adding to a campaign that aggravated animosities between the rivals and prompted a resumption of Cold War-style psychological warfare along their border. (Fighters For A Free North Korea via AP)

FILE - A North Korean military guard post, top, and a South Korean post, bottom, are seen from Paju, South Korea, near the border with North Korea, Tuesday, June 18, 2024. South Korea’s military said Friday, June 21, 2024, that it again fired warnings shots to repel North Korean soldiers who temporarily crossed the rivals’ land border on Thursday for the third time this month.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, File)

FILE - A North Korean military guard post, top, and a South Korean post, bottom, are seen from Paju, South Korea, near the border with North Korea, Tuesday, June 18, 2024. South Korea’s military said Friday, June 21, 2024, that it again fired warnings shots to repel North Korean soldiers who temporarily crossed the rivals’ land border on Thursday for the third time this month.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, File)

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