Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday appreciated Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for “once again raising his voice in support of the rights of the Kashmiri people” during his address to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

“Turkey’s unwavering support remains a source of strength for the Kashmiris in their legitimate struggle for self-determination,” said the premier.

Leader of the Opposition Shehbaz Sharif also expressed gratitude to President Erdogan “for raising the Kashmir issue”. “Kashmiris will remember him as their great friend who advocated their right to self-determination at every forum of the world.”

Erdogan, in his address via video-link on Tuesday, called the Kashmir conflict — which he said was also key to the stability and peace of South Asia — “a burning issue”.

“Steps taken following the abolition of the special status of [occupied] Jammu and Kashmir further complicated the problem. We are in favour of solving this issue through dialogue within the framework of the UN resolutions and especially in line with the expectations of the people of Kashmir.”

Meanwhile, India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations T.S. Tirumurti called Erdogan’s remarks “gross interference” in the country’s internal affairs.

“Turkey should learn to respect the sovereignty of other nations and reflect on its policies more deeply,” said Tirumurti.

Since Aug 5, 2019, when India illegally merged the occupied territory with it and imposed a communication lockdown as well as a curfew, Pakistan has raised the Kashmir issue three times inside the council with China’s support.

The Indians, however, argue that the merger — although illegal — has ended the disputed nature of occupied Kashmir and therefore it should be removed from the council’s agenda.

Turkey has repeatedly backed Pakistan’s stance on the issue as Prime Minister Imran called attention to India’s actions in occupied Kashmir on international platforms.

In a call with President Arif Alvi in August, Erdogan had assured his country’s support for Pakistan’s stance on the Kashmir issue.

The annual meetings of the United Nations began in New York on Monday with Kashmir on the agenda as an unresolved dispute. In doing so, the world body ignored India’s efforts to remove the 72-year-old issue from the UN Security Council’s agenda for this year.

The current session, which is the 75th session, is unique in the world body’s history with leaders not attending in person and other meetings being held online.

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