ISLAMABAD - Pakistan and Italy yesterday agreed to enhance counter-terrorism cooperation to eliminate the menace. Addressing a joint news conference after a meeting here, Advisor to Prime Minister Sartaj Aziz and Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said the two countries were on the same page to defeat terror.

Earlier, the Italian Foreign Minister held a meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and agreed to enhance bilateral ties in all sectors.

Prime Minister Sharif said Pakistan was marching on its way “to achieve long term economic stability and fully exploiting its immense potentials that will certainly usher the country into peace and prosperity for its people and the region and the world at large.”

Gentiloni, who also met Army Chief Raheel Sharif, appreciated the government for leading a war against the extremist ideology in Pakistan.

At the media interaction, the Italian foreign minister said Italy and Pakistan had a defence agreement in place since 2009 and were exchanging expertise and sharing information in fighting terrorism.

He expressed condolences on behalf of the Italian government over the incidents of terrorism that took place in Pakistan over the years.

He said stabilisation of Afghanistan was in the strategic interest of Pakistan and added that Italy had a strong commitment to eliminate terrorism after 9/11. Paolo Gentiloni said one of the key elements in stabilising Afghanistan, was the political and diplomatic solution.

He said the Quadrilateral Coordination Group could pave the way for political solution to the Afghan issue and stressed that the exercise required strong commitment by all member countries.

He said the success of Daesh in Iraq and Syria should not give new ways to its establishment in Afghanistan, Libya and elsewhere.

Italian foreign minister termed his meeting with Sartaj Aziz as “very useful” and mentioned that bilateral relations were making satisfactory strides.

He said the one billion euro bilateral trade reflected that Italy was one of the ten main economic partners of Pakistan and emphasised on strengthening it further.

He said the discussion also focused on the potentiality of giving value to the resources of agricultural food chain and sharing know-how in machinery, dedicated to agriculture and textile sectors.

He added the discussion also focused on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, terming the project not only important for Pakistan and China but also for other states.

Sartaj Aziz said his meeting with the Italian counterpart was a good opportunity to intensify efforts for strengthening bilateral trade.

He said the Pak-Italy Economic Commission, formed in 2006 with six working groups, was taking positive steps in this regard. He said the two sides also agreed on formation of a Cultural Forum.

When asked if the bomb blast in Lahore on Easter was Pakistan’s incapability to protect minorities, Sartaj Aziz said the incident was a blowback by the terrorists in reaction to the operation against them.

He said the terrorists were looking for soft targets and stressed that the incident should be put in correct perspective.

He dismissed the impression that the State was not protecting the minorities and said the country’s Constitution guaranteed the protection of minorities without any discrimination of caste and creed.

The advisor said the two countries have also agreed to establish Pakistan-Italy Cultural Forum to provide umbrella to all cultural activities. He said the two countries had also signed a defence agreement in 2009, and they were committed to further promote relations in the field. The two sides, he said, exchanged views on entire range of relations, including political, defence, cultural, economic and trade.