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Pakistan suggests inviting Afghanistan to regional forum

  • FM Qureshi chairs a virtual meeting of foreign ministers of Afghanistan’s neighbours
Published September 9, 2021

Islamabad: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Wednesday, underscored the need for working on the key priorities to prevent a humanitarian crisis and prevent economic meltdown in Afghanistan that can exacerbate the sufferings of the Afghans.

Qureshi stated this while chairing a virtual meeting of foreign ministers of Afghanistan’s neighbours, including China, Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan to discuss developments in Afghanistan.

The meeting of the foreign ministers of the Afghanistan’s neighbouring countries comes a day after the Taliban announced their interim government.

The foreign minister also proposed to transform this important platform of neighbouring countries into a regular consultative mechanism and also suggested to invite Afghanistan in future.

“Participation of Afghanistan will augment this forum’s effectiveness in pursuing our shared objectives for lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan,” he said, adding that the neighbouring countries have a direct stake in the stability in Afghanistan.

International community must remain engaged with Afghanistan: FM Qureshi

“Our collective voice to the international community will reinforce our message of a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan, at peace with itself and with its neighbours,” Qureshi emphasised.

According to a statement of the Foreign Office, views were exchanged on the evolving situation in Afghanistan for a regional approach during the meeting.

It added that the participants welcomed Pakistan’s initiative to organise the meeting and concurred on the importance of the mechanism of Afghanistan’s neighbouring countries to address common concerns and advance shared objectives.

Sharing Pakistan’s perspective, the FM emphasised the importance of proceeding with a realistic approach in view of the changed reality in Afghanistan.

He said that the wellbeing of the Afghan people must remain the focus, as they had suffered enormously due to prolonged conflict and instability for more than 40 years.

He underlined that a shared approach would help Afghanistan on its path to peace and stability and would result in enhanced economic integration and realisation of connectivity projects.

Qureshi drew the attention of the international community to addressing humanitarian crisis and preventing economic meltdown in Afghanistan as the key priorities.

“In the wake of recent developments, the key priorities are to prevent a humanitarian crisis that can exacerbate the sufferings of the Afghans. Equally important is to take steps to prevent economic meltdown in the country,” he said, adding that if a humanitarian crisis is prevented and economic stability is assured, then peace can be consolidated and a mass exodus precluded.

He stressed the need for enhanced engagement of the international community, particularly at this pivotal juncture, adding that renewed diplomatic and international presence in the country would reassure the Afghan people.

Abandoning Afghanistan can result in civil war, economic collapse: FM Qureshi

He stated that urgent provision of humanitarian assistance, with UN and its various agencies playing a lead role, would reinforce that process of confidence-building.

Qureshi added that Afghanistan’s access to its financial resources would be pivotal in preventing a collapse and reviving economic activity.

The foreign minister expressed the hope that the meeting would lay strong foundation for a robust regional engagement on the situation in Afghanistan.

He said that the events of the past few weeks have catapulted our region to a global spotlight.

How the situation evolves will have profound implications for Afghanistan, our region, and the world at large, he added.

He said that it is clear that no one could anticipate the recent turn of events, from the meltdown of security forces to the collapse of the Afghanistan government. All previous assessments and predictions proved wrong, he added.

He also stated that the prospect of a protracted conflict and civil war seems to have been averted and the much-feared exodus of refugees has not taken place, at least thus far.

By all reckonings, he added that the situation remains complex and fluid. “One thing, however, is certain: We all are grappling with a changed reality in Afghanistan.”

He said that the Taliban have announced formation of a caretaker setup. “We hope that the political situation stabilises at the earliest, leading to normalcy,” he said, adding that the new situation requires discarding old lenses, developing new insights, and proceeding with a realistic and pragmatic approach.

Referring to his recent visits to Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Iran, he said that the regional countries have agreed on charting a way forward that would help address the common challenges and realise the opportunities that may arise out of the latest developments.

FM to embark on three-day visit to Iran, Tajikistan today

He said that the consultations, so far, have brought forth some issues that would require a coordinated approach, as the situation evolves: including security situation along the borders, prevention of Afghan soil from being used by terrorist entities, possibility of fresh influx of refugees, containing drug trafficking and trans-national crimes, stemming any spread of extremist elements, challenges relating to the Covid-19 pandemic and impediments to regional connectivity. “We also agree that there are rich dividends, if peace is secured in Afghanistan,” he said.

These could include: secure borders, end of threat of terrorism from Afghan soil, possibilities of return of refugees, economic stability and improvement in living standards, realisation of connectivity projects, and enhanced regional economic integration, he said.

To advance our common vision of a peaceful, stable, prosperous and inter-connected region, he asserted that Afghanistan must be enabled to get through this testing time and realise its full potential. In our view, there are several key principles and priorities that should guide the efforts in this direction, he said.

First, we must affirm our full support and solidarity with the Afghan people; second, we must reaffirm our full commitment to the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Afghanistan; third, we must stress that Afghan issues should have Afghan solutions; fourth, we must make clear that Afghan soil should not be allowed to be used against any country; fifth, we must underscore the multi-ethnic nature of Afghan society and stress the importance of national reconciliation, Qureshi said.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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