ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Russia on Monday agreed to continue their cooperation for a political settlement of the Afghan conflict.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in a telephone conversation agreed to work closely for an early negotiated political settlement of the Afghan issue, the Foreign Office said in a statement.
Mr Lavrov had in April visited Islamabad for talks on efforts for ending the conflict in Afghanistan and promoting bilateral cooperation.
Hopes of a political settlement of the Afghan conflict are dimming with US forces pulling out of the war-ravaged country at a much faster pace than initially expected. According to the US Central Command, more than 50 per cent of the pullout process, which began on May 1, has been completed.
President Biden had initially announced that the withdrawal would be completed by September 11 to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 incident that led to the US attack on Afghanistan. However, from the pace of the retrograde mission it looks the process could be completed much earlier.
Violence in Afghanistan has intensified since the start of the US pullout, while the peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban in Doha remain stalemated.
Regional countries fear that Afghanistan can descend into a much bloodier round of the civil war if the US troops exit without a political settlement. The chaos can have spillover effects for the neighbouring countries as well.
Pakistan and Russia agree on the need for stepping up peace efforts and want restoration of peace and stability in Afghanistan.
During Lavrov’s trip both sides had agreed to further facilitate the warring Afghan groups in reaching a politically negotiated agreement. Russia had planned to convene a meeting of the Moscow Format, involving Afghanistan’s neighbours and other important countries of the region, to facilitate the intra-Afghan negotiations that appear to have stalled, but it has happened so far.
Moscow had on March 18 hosted a meeting of the Troika Plus mechanism.
“The two foreign ministers stressed the importance of follow-up action on the decisions made during the recent visits to transform these into tangible outcomes,” the FO said about their telephone conversation.
Mr Qureshi also reiterated Pakistan’s request for assistance in procuring five million doses of Sputnik V vaccines.
Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2021