Pakistan, which has not recognized Israel, took another step toward normalization of ties with the Jewish state on Wednesday when President Pervez Musharraf became the first Pakistani ruler to publicly meet an Israeli leader, Dawn reported Thursday.
Musharraf approached Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon during a photo opportunity for world leaders attending the 60th annual session of the UN General Assembly in New York.
Early this month, Pakistani foreign minister met his Israeli counterpart in Istanbul, which has been the first high-level engagement between the two countries.
Many of the world leaders attending the conference watched as President Musharraf went over to the Israeli leader, exchanged pleasantries with him and introduced his wife.
Pakistani ambassador to Washington Jehangir Karamat told Dawn earlier this month that the two leaders might have a chance of meeting during the UN summit. But a Foreign Office spokesperson said no such meeting had been planned.
A senior diplomatic source said Tuesday that both the ambassador and the spokesperson were right. "There will be no planned meeting. Both the leaders will happen to be at the same place at the same time and will shake hands," he said.
Explaining Pakistan's position on Israel, the source said, "We have told them in unequivocal terms that these contacts cannot lead to a formal recognition. The recognition will only happen when the Palestinian issue is amicably resolved."
He said by approaching Israel, Pakistan wanted to soften up those lobbies that had traditionally been hostile to Islamabad.
"We also want to send a message to Israel that we do not have any fundamental enmity with that state," he added.
(Xinhua News Agency September 15, 2005)