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Pak delegation in Kabul, US boycotts Moscow talks

KABUL: Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi leading a high-level delegation arrived in Kabul on Thursday, where he held meetings with the leadership of the interim government of Afghanistan.

“During the one-day visit, he discussed issues related Afghan and regional issues and Pak-Afghan bilateral relations with Afghan Deputy Prime Minister Abdus Salam Hanafi and acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi and meet other Afghan dignitaries as well.

Earlier, Qureshi disembarking the plane, followed by Inter-Services Intelligence chief Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed. They were received by Afghanistan’s Acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi and Pakistan Ambassador to Kabul Mansoor Ahmad Khan at the airport’s tarmac.

Later, Afghan Deputy Prime Minister Abdus Salam Hanafi hosted a luncheon in honour of Qureshi and his delegation. A large number of members of the Afghan interim cabinet were present on the occasion.

KABUL: Pakistan’s Foreign Minister FM Shah Mahmood Qureshi and his delegation hold a meeting with Afghan Deputy Prime Minister Abdus Salam Hanafi on Thursday

Hanafi welcomed the foreign minister to Kabul, while Qureshi thanked the Taliban leadership for their “warm hospitality”, according to an FO statement.

In his remarks, Foreign Minister Qureshi said Pakistan was determined to help the Afghan people to save them from an economic crisis. He discussed the Afghan issue in light of talks held at Moscow on Wednesday. He briefed Afghan leaders the point of view of Islamabad

On conclusion of Moscow talks.

Moscow talks

Representatives of 10 countries and the Taliban gathered in the Russian capital on Wednesday to discuss recent developments and the future of Afghanistan.

Opening the meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called the Moscow format one of “the most demanded” mechanisms on the Afghan settlement. He regretted the absence of a US representative in the session, and said he hoped it is not because of “some principle problems.”

“We regret about the non-participation of our American colleagues … I hope it doesn’t connect to some principal problems and probably one of the reasons is the change of the US special representative for Afghanistan,” Lavrov said.

He said he expects the US will express its readiness to cooperate on the Afghan issue, and join in the steps finalized after the meeting. The Russian diplomat said their goal is to achieve sustainable peace in Afghanistan, and forming an inclusive government is “a key to success.”

He said the absence of international recognition of the Taliban, as well as social and economic problems, and humanitarian challenges have contributed to the unstable situation in Afghanistan, which can be exploited by terrorist and criminal groups.

This could have spillover effects for neighboring countries, he said, adding that he spoke with the Taliban about not letting to use Afghan soil against its Central Asian neighbors.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi is greeted by Afghan leaders at Kabul International Airport on Thursday (Oct. 21, 2021). DG-ISI Lt. Gen Faiz Hameed is seen (left). He is part of Pak delegation.

“We are satisfied with the level of practical interaction with the Afghan authorities, which allows at the current stage to resolve the problems of providing security to Russian citizens living in Afghanistan, unhindered functioning of our embassy in Kabul, as well as the embassies of other countries,” he said.

He thanked the Taliban for assistance in organizing the evacuation of Russian citizens, and ensuring the necessary conditions for Russian journalists to conduct their duties in Afghanistan.

The time has come for the international community to provide Afghanistan considerable financial, economic and humanitarian assistance to avoid a humanitarian crisis and a new wave of emigration, he said.

Besides the host country Russia, representatives of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Iran, Pakistan, China, Turkmenistan, India, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan are participating in the meeting. They are expected to adopt a joint statement after the session.

Islamabad Foreign Office

The FO earlier said: “During the one-day visit, [Qureshi] will hold talks with Acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi and call on [the] leadership of the interim government in Kabul. He will meet other Afghan dignitaries as well.”

The talks will cover the “entire spectrum” of relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan with a focus on methods to deepen cooperation between the two countries in diverse areas, the FO said.

“Utilising the opportunity, the foreign minister will share Pakistan’s perspective on issues of regional peace and stability.”

The FO statement said that as a “close fraternal neighbour”, Pakistan had always stood by Afghanistan, mentioning a number of measures in this regard such as keeping border crossing points open, the institution of a facilitative visa regime for Afghan nationals and provision of humanitarian aid and assistance in the form of food items and medicines.

“The foreign minister’s visit reflects Pakistan’s consistent policy of supporting the brotherly Afghan people, deepening bilateral trade and economic relations, and facilitating closer people-to-people contacts,” the FO said.

Moscow talks

FM Qureshi’s visit comes while Russia is hosting the Taliban for talks in Moscow. Attending the talks on Wednesday, Pakistan’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Ambassador Mohammad Sadiq emphasised the need for extending humanitarian support to Afghanistan, saying that the international community “must step up efforts” for the purpose.

Ambassador Sadiq conveyed to the other participants of the meeting, including a Taliban delegation, that peace in Afghanistan would benefit the entire region in terms of stability, secure borders, enhanced connectivity, return of refugees and countering terrorism, a statement issued by the envoy said.

MOSCOW: Representatives of 10 countries participating in talks on Afghan issue in Moscow on Wednesday. US did not attend the meeting.

He reiterated Pakistan’s firm belief that peace went hand in hand with prosperity and economic stability and highlighted that “Pakistan’s constructive role in [the] Afghan peace process is well-recognised and acknowledged by the international community.”

Since the fall of Kabul, Pakistan has been at the center stage of almost all developments in Afghanistan, be it the evacuation of foreign diplomats, aid workers and vulnerable Afghans, efforts to avert a humanitarian crisis or the formation of an inclusive government in the war-battered country. 

On Wednesday, Islamabad urged the international community to continue its economic engagements with Afghanistan and unfreeze the Afghan financial assets parked in other countries. 

Pakistan’s special representative for Afghanistan, Ambassador Muhammad Sadiq, highlighted the issue while addressing a conference in Moscow that brought together officials from various regional countries, including representatives of Afghanistan’s new Taliban government. 

The international community froze nearly $10 billion of Afghanistan’s financial assets in other countries after the fall of Kabul on August 15 since the money was viewed as a key instrument to mount political pressure on the Taliban. 

“Foreign minister’s visit reflects Pakistan’s consistent policy of supporting the brotherly Afghan people, deepening bilateral trade and economic relations, and facilitating closer people-to-people contacts,” the statement read. 

Last week, the Pakistani government also started a free online visa service for the neighboring Afghanistan and abolished the $8 fee for it as a “goodwill gesture.”