ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has said Pakistan hopes for greater engagement with the new United States government and called on President Joe Biden to follow up on the ongoing Afghan peace process and withdrawal of US troops from the war-ravaged country.

“I think they (Biden administration) should realise there is an opportunity in Afghanistan and they should persevere with what was initiated and not reverse things,” Mr Qureshi said in an interview with Al Jazeera.

“Push them forward, because, after a long time, we have started moving in the right direction,” he said.

Pakistan facilitated the intra-Afghan talks and the US-Taliban dialogue and has now called for the US to stick to the agreements.

Former US president Donald Trump accelerated a timeline for troop withdrawal agreed with the Taliban in February last year, as the Biden administration comes in with 2,500 US soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan.

Under last year’s historic deal, all US troops are due to leave Afghanistan by April, but the Pentagon recently hinted it could delay that if violence does not abate.

“We are concerned because we feel violence can vitiate the climate,” Mr Qureshi added.

“Pakistan has done a lot, we have really bent backwards to create an environment to facilitate the peace process,” he said while blaming spoilers for the violence, identifying them as internal Afghan players who have benefited from the war economy.

The minister said “there are elements from outside who do not share our vision, which is a peaceful, stable, prosperous Afghanistan”.

Published in Dawn, January 23rd, 2021

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