Prevention of humanitarian crisis, economic meltdown in Afghanistan key priorities, FM Qureshi tells virtual moot

Published September 8, 2021
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi addresses a virtual meeting of the foreign ministers of Afghanistan's neighbouring countries. — Photo courtesy Shah Mahmood Qureshi Twitter
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi addresses a virtual meeting of the foreign ministers of Afghanistan's neighbouring countries. — Photo courtesy Shah Mahmood Qureshi Twitter

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Wednesday stressed that the prevention of a humanitarian crisis and economic meltdown in Afghanistan were key priorities in the wake of recent developments in the country that saw the Taliban take over Kabul and the formation of an interim government.

Qureshi was addressing a virtual meeting of foreign ministers of Afghanistan's neighbours — China, Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan — to discuss developments in the war-ravaged country. The meeting came a day after the Taliban’s announcement of an interim government.

"In the wake of recent developments in the country, the key priorities are to prevent a humanitarian crisis that can exacerbate the sufferings of Afghans. Equally important is to take steps to prevent [an] economic meltdown in the country.

"If a humanitarian crisis is prevented and economic stability is assured, then peace can be consolidated and a mass exodus precluded," Qureshi said.

He stressed that the efforts required the enhanced engagement of the international community at this "pivotal juncture".

"Renewed diplomatic and international presence in the country would reassure the Afghan people," he added.

Qureshi said urgent provision of humanitarian assistance with the UN and its various agencies playing a leading role would reinforce the confidence-building process. The foreign minister pointed out that Afghanistan's access to its financial resources would be "pivotal" in preventing an economic collapse and reviving economic activity.

FM Qureshi said recent events had "catapulted" the region to a global spotlight, adding that "how the situation evolves will have profound implications for Afghanistan, our region and the world at large".

"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 said.

Qureshi pointed out that "much-dreaded bloodshed" had not occurred, a protracted conflict and civil war had also been averted, a mass exodus of refugees had not yet taken place and the situation remained "complex and fluid".

"We all are grappling with a changed reality in Afghanistan," he said, adding that the formation of a caretaker Afghan setup had been noted and expressed the hope for political stabilisation leading to normalcy.

"The new situation requires discarding old lenses, developing new insights and proceeding with a realistic and pragmatic approach. At the centre of our endeavours must remain the well-being of the Afghan people who have suffered enormously due to conflict and instability for over 40 years."

Results of regional diplomacy tour

The foreign minister also mentioned his diplomacy tour to the Central Asian States and Iran last month, saying he had detailed discussions during the trip. "We agreed on charting a way forward that would help address common challenges and realise the opportunities that may arise out of the latest developments," he said.

He said consultations had highlighted the following issues that would require a coordinated approach as the situation in Afghanistan evolved:

  • Security situation along the borders
  • Prevention of Afghan soil being used by terrorist entities
  • Possibility of a fresh influx of refugees
  • Containing drug trafficking and transnational crimes
  • Stemming any spread of extremist elements
  • Challenges relating to the Covid-19 pandemic
  • Impediments to regional connectivity

"We also agreed there are rich dividends if peace is secured in Afghanistan," he said, pointing to secure borders, end of terrorist threats from Afghan soil, return of refugees, economic stability, improvement in living standards, the realisation of connectivity projects and enhanced regional economic integration.

Qureshi stressed that Afghanistan must be enabled to pass through "this testing time and realise its full potential" in order to advance a common vision of a "peaceful, stable, prosperous and interconnected region".

He explained that there were several key principles that should guide efforts towards this direction:

  • Affirm full support and solidarity with the Afghan people
  • Reaffirm full commitment to unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Afghanistan
  • Stress that Afghan issues should have Afghan solutions
  • Make clear that Afghan soil is not allowed to be used against any country
  • Underscore the multi-ethnic nature of Afghan society
  • Stress the importance of national reconciliation

The foreign minister suggested turning the platform of neighbouring countries into a regular consultative mechanism to which Afghanistan should also be invited in the future.

"Participation of Afghanistan will augment this forum's effectiveness in pursuing our shared objectives for lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan.

"The neighbouring countries have a direct stake in Afghanistan's stability. Our collective voice to the international community will reinforce our message of a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan at peace with itself and its neighbours," he explained.

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