WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that he believed the world was united on pressing the Taliban after speaking with Pakistan, China and Russia, key players with Afghanistan’s new rulers.
Blinken on Thursday met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly with his Pakistani counterpart and held talks with ministers of the four other veto-wielding Security Council members including China and Russia on Wednesday evening.
“I think there is very strong unity of approach and unity of purpose,” Blinken told reporters.
“The Taliban says that it seeks legitimacy, that it seeks support from the international community. The relationship that it has with the international community is going to be defined by the actions it takes.”
Blinken reiterated US priorities for the Taliban including allowing Afghans and foreigners to leave, respecting the rights of women, girls and minorities, and not letting Afghanistan be used again by extremists such as Al Qaeda.
The State Department said Blinken highlighted “the importance of coordinating our diplomatic engagement” in talks with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.
Pakistan has called for engagement with the Taliban and the unfreezing of Afghan assets but Qureshi said earlier in the week that there was no rush to recognise a new Taliban government, a step opposed by Western nations.
Qureshi, opening his meeting with Blinken, said, “We have to find a way of collectively working to achieve our common objective, which is peace and stability.”
China and Russia have both moved to engage with the Taliban but have also stopped short of recognition and have longstanding concerns about religious extremism.
The Taliban swept through Afghanistan last month after President Joe Biden withdrew US troops, saying there was no point in extending America’s longest war beyond 20 years.
Shah Mahmood, meets Antony Blinken
Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in New York on Thursday on the sidelines of the 76th United Nations General Assembly session.
The meeting, which lasted almost an hour, began at 1pm New York time at the Palace Hotel in the city, according to Blinken’s schedule on the website of the US Department of State.
This is the first meeting between the two top diplomats and as the foreign minister’s statement after the meeting showed, it focused on Afghanistan.
Mr Qureshi said that close engagement between Pakistan and the United States had always been mutually beneficial and a factor for stability in South Asia. He reiterated Pakistan’s desire for a balanced relationship with the United States that was anchored in trade, investment, energy and regional connectivity.
According to the official Pakistani statement, the foreign minister reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to facilitating efforts for an inclusive political settlement in Afghanistan. Pakistan, he said, also believed that “only a stable and broad-based government in Afghanistan, which reflects its diversity and preserves the gains made by the country since 2001, would be able to ensure that Afghan territory is never exploited by transnational terrorist groups ever again”.
Mr Qureshi noted that a new political reality had emerged in Afghanistan, adding that “while the Taliban should be held to their commitments, the international community has a moral obligation to help the Afghan people deal with the growing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.”
He hoped that the world would not repeat the mistake of disengaging with Afghanistan as it did in the 1990s.
But diplomatic sources in Washington say that the Biden administration is not yet ready to engage with the Taliban and is waiting to see if Kabul’s new rulers keep their promises to expand their government to include non-Taliban members and to respect universal human rights.
Mr Qureshi also raised the Kashmir issue in the meeting, highlighting the grave human rights situation in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and underscored the importance of resolving the Kashmir dispute for lasting peace and stability in South Asia.
Secretary Blinken appreciated Pakistan’s support for the evacuation of US citizens and other nationals from Afghanistan, and its continued efforts for peace in the region.
In a tweet on his official site, Mr Qureshi said that in his meeting with Secretary Blinken he reiterated Pakistan’s focus on a relationship anchored in trade, investment, energy and regional connectivity.
“Shared with Secretary Blinken the importance of the international community holding the Taliban to their commitments; also, for the same community to recognise its moral obligation to help the Afghan people with the growing humanitarian crisis,” he wrote.
“The world should not repeat the mistake of disengaging with Afghanistan consistently. There is no military solution and Pakistan is committed to facilitating inclusive political settlement.”
He added that “Pakistan has long desired high-level contacts with the US leadership, particularly after the collapse of the US- backed government in Kabul”.
Mr Qureshi, who is in New York to attend the UN General Assembly session, has held a series of bilateral meetings with his counterparts from around the world. He used his meetings and other engagements to urge world leaders to stay engaged with Afghanistan’s new rulers.