ISLAMABAD: Ambassador of Republic of Azerbaijan Ali Alizada on Thursday stressed the need to further enhance trade, cultural and tourism cooperation between Azerbaijan and Pakistan. Addressing a ceremony hosted by him to mark the Republic Day of Azerbaijan and to celebrate the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries, the ambassador said Pakistan was one of the few countries which recognized independence of Azerbaijan in 1991 and in established diplomatic relations next year. “Since then we enjoy cordial and warm relations. Both countries have supported each other on all issues, especially on Nagorno-Karabakh and Kashmir issues based on UN Security Council resolutions,” he said, adding that because of the Armenian occupation of Azerbaijani lands, Pakistan had not recognized Armenia as an independent state. The ambassador mentioned the mutual visits of more than 10 ministers and other officials in year 2016-17. He said that in the upcoming months. “The chief of Air Staff and chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee of Pakistan armed forces are scheduled to visit Azerbaijan. Last year, bilateral trade turnover increased by more than two times, but stressed there was much need to further boost economic ties,” he said. He wished to further strengthen people to people contacts as well as cultural and tourism relations between the two countries. He said that this year, visa procedures had been simplified for Pakistani nationals. Federal Minister Khurram Dastgir, who was chief guest on the occasion, appreciated Azerbaijan’s remarkable progress and development in various fields and its positive contribution to regional peace, stability and economic development during the last 25 years. He said that the standing committee on foreign affairs of National Assembly of Pakistan has passed a resolution in February 2017 to condemn the occupation of Azerbaijani territories by Armenia. While shedding light on economic cooperation, he said the present state of our bilateral economic cooperation was not up to the mark and bilateral trade stood at only $50 million in 2015-16. He said several factors contributed to this, including a lack of direct route and strict visa regime. He stressed the need to work on pursuing a five-year comprehensive plan for the enhancement of bilateral trade to $500 million and signing of preferential trade agreement between the two sides. Russian Ambassador Alexy Dedov said that the next Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit would be the most important event of the year which was going to be held in June in Astana, Kazakhstan. He added that the summit would be historic one as Pakistan would attend the summit for the first time as full member state. “Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will also be there with other heads of states from China, Russia and other countries,” he said. Dean of the Diplomatic Corps and Ambassador of Kazakhstan Bakhytbek Shabarbayev said Kazakhstan would be preparing to make the summit a historic one and hoped that all the heads of member states would attend the summit. Ambassador of United Arab Emirates Eisa Abdulla Al Basha Al Nuaima praised the success of the recent US-Arab Islamic Summit in Saudi Arabia. “The security of the region was properly discussed in summit and there will be a better security environment among the member states,” he said.