World must recognise and engage with new reality in Afghanistan, says Qureshi alongside Spanish FM

Published September 10, 2021
Spain's Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares (L) and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi address a press conference in Islamabad. — APP
Spain's Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares (L) and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi address a press conference in Islamabad. — APP

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said on Friday that there was a new reality in Afghanistan, one the world needed to recognise and engage with.

The foreign minister made the comments while addressing a press conference in Islamabad alongside Spanish counterpart Jose Manuel Albares after holding delegation-level talks.

"There is a new reality in Afghanistan. The world must recognise that new reality and engage with it. Weigh your options [and decide] what is the best way forward.

"In my view, the best way forward is international engagement as opposed to international isolation," he said, adding that the latter will have undesirable consequences.

"It will not be helpful for Afghanistan, the region and eventually not be helpful for [the world]," the foreign minister said.

He stressed that a "new approach" needed to be adopted, adding that intimidation, pressure and coercion had not worked — a fact that must be accepted.

Qureshi said positive outcomes needed to be incentivised.

The foreign minister pointed to the resumption of the evacuation of foreigners on Thursday when a flight left Kabul for Doha and said that such developments were in line with the demands of the international community.

"Be positive and encourage [the Taliban] to stay on course," he said.

Responding to a question regarding why the international community was unable to recognise the ground reality in Afghanistan, Qureshi said he had gathered from his interactions with colleagues that "people are not in a hurry and are watching and waiting".

"There is recognition of a new reality and there is the awareness that engagement is required and that dialogue can be useful," Qureshi said, adding that while the desire to engage was present, there was no "rush to recognise".

'Need to focus on humanitarian crisis'

The foreign minister stressed that immediate focus was needed on the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. "We have to chip in," he said.

Qureshi voiced appreciation for an upcoming conference in Geneva on how the international community could contribute in averting a humanitarian crisis and raising funds for Afghans.

He also mentioned Pakistan's efforts in this regard, talking about the Pakistan Air Force aircraft which landed at Kabul airport on Thursday morning carrying relief goods.

"We will continue to do that through air and land routes and the international community should also do their bit," Qureshi said.

The foreign minister said that Afghanistan's economic collapse would not be in the interest of any stakeholder and steps should be taken to avert such an outcome.

He pointed out that he had earlier said that freezing Afghan funds would not be helpful and that the decision should be revisited.

The Spanish foreign minister, meanwhile, said that Spain also wanted peace and stability for Afghanistan. "We want humanitarian assistance to reach the Afghans and we hope that it will be possible," he said.

He said Spain was close to the Afghan people for 20 years and would "not leave them behind".

"We want Afghan collaborators that worked with us [...] to peacefully leave the country if they wish and come to Spain," he said.

"We want to work very closely with Pakistan and regional partners to try to make the best of the near future for Afghans."

Bilateral relations

Regarding his Spanish counterpart's visit, Qureshi said: "We are celebrating 70 years of our diplomatic relations [between Spain and Pakistan] so I hope this is the beginning of many more visits to come in the days and years ahead."

He said the visit reflected a desire by both sides to further cooperate in matters of peace, security and stability along with close consultations on the Afghan situation.

Qureshi said he thanked the Spanish foreign minister for Spain's support of Pakistan on the Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus issue. "They have been supportive and we expect them to continue supporting Pakistan as the review process is undergoing," he said.

Qureshi added he also briefed Albares on the steps taken to fulfil the requirements of the Financial Action Task Force and asked him to convene the fifth round of the annual bilateral consultations.

Regarding trade, Qureshi said Spain was Pakistan's third-biggest trading partner in Europe and he shared opportunities and areas that had incentives for Spanish investment in the country.

He also urged Spain to reassess its travel advisory for Pakistan due to the changed security environment in the country.

Foreign Minister Albares appreciated Qureshi's comments and said his visit was an "excellent opportunity" to relaunch and re-energise bilateral relations.

"We agreed that bilateral consultations must take place this year and we are going to do it very quickly, hopefully in Madrid if possible and I hope to host you [foreign] minister in Madrid and Brussels.

"You are a very important partner for Spain and the European Union," said the Spanish foreign minister.

He said there were over 100,000 Pakistanis in Spain contributing to the economy, adding that "we are very happy to have them there."

Responding to a question on the human rights situation in Indian-occupied Kashmir, the Spanish foreign minister said the situation of women and human rights was important for his government anywhere in the world.

"Human rights are not something divisible for us," he said.

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