NEW YORK: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Thursday.—AP
NEW YORK: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Thursday.—AP

UNITED NATIONS: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in New York on Thursday on the sidelines of the 76th United Nations General Assembly session.

The meeting, which lasted almost an hour, began at 1pm New York time at the Palace Hotel in the city, according to Blinken’s schedule on the website of the US Department of State.

This is the first meeting between the two top diplomats and as the foreign minister’s statement after the meeting showed, it focused on Afghanistan.

Secretary Blinken is scheduled to give a press briefing at 4:45pm local time and may talk about this meeting as well.

Highlights grave human rights situation in India-held Kashmir

Mr Qureshi said that close engagement between Pakistan and the United States had always been mutually beneficial and a factor for stability in South Asia. He reiterated Pakistan’s desire for a balanced relationship with the United States that was anchored in trade, investment, energy and regional connectivity.

According to the official Pakistani statement, the foreign minister reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to facilitating efforts for an inclusive political settlement in Afghanistan. Pakistan, he said, also believed that “only a stable and broad-based government in Afghanistan, which reflects its diversity and preserves the gains made by the country since 2001, would be able to ensure that Afghan territory is never exploited by transnational terrorist groups ever again”.

Mr Qureshi noted that a new political reality had emerged in Afghanistan, adding that “while the Taliban should be held to their commitments, the international community has a moral obligation to help the Afghan people deal with the growing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.”

He hoped that the world would not repeat the mistake of disengaging with Afghanistan as it did in the 1990s.

But diplomatic sources in Washington say that the Biden administration is not yet ready to engage with the Taliban and is waiting to see if Kabul’s new rulers keep their promises to expand their government to include non-Taliban members and to respect universal human rights.

Mr Qureshi also raised the Kashmir issue in the meeting, highlighting the grave human rights situation in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and underscored the importance of resolving the Kashmir dispute for lasting peace and stability in South Asia.

Secretary Blinken appreciated Pakistan’s support for the evacuation of US citizens and other nationals from Afghanistan, and its continued efforts for peace in the region.

In a tweet on his official site, Mr Qureshi said that in his meeting with Secretary Blinken he reiterated Pakistan’s focus on a relationship anchored in trade, investment, energy and regional connectivity.

“Shared with Secretary Blinken the importance of the international community holding the Taliban to their commitments; also, for the same community to recognise its moral obligation to help the Afghan people with the growing humanitarian crisis,” he wrote.

“The world should not repeat the mistake of disengaging with Afghanistan consistently. There is no military solution and Pakistan is committed to facilitating inclusive political settlement.”

He added that “Pakistan has long desired high-level contacts with the US leadership, particularly after the collapse of the US- backed government in Kabul”.

Mr Qureshi, who is in New York to attend the UN General Assembly session, has held a series of bilateral meetings with his counterparts from around the world. He used his meetings and other engagements to urge world leaders to stay engaged with Afghanistan’s new rulers.

Although Pakistan has been urging the world to stay engaged with Afghanistan’s new rulers, it has not yet publicly backed the Taliban’s call for a seat in the UN General Assembly.

By Thursday, it was obvious that Afghanistan’s new rulers are unlikely to speak at or represent their country in the current session of the UN General Assembly. Representatives of the previous Afghan government, which collapsed last month when the Taliban captured Kabul, still occupy the Afghan mission at the United Nations. On Tuesday, they attended the session that US President Joe Biden addressed.

On Sept 15, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres received a letter from the currently accredited Afghan ambassador, Ghulam Isaczai, stating that he and other members of his team will represent Afghanistan at the 76th UNGA.

On Sept 20, the Taliban-controlled Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs also sent a communication to Guterres, requesting to participate in the current UNGA. A Taliban leader, Ameer Khan Muttaqi, signed the letter as the new Afghan foreign minister

In the letter, the Taliban also announced nominating their spokesperson Suhail Shaheen as the new Afghan envoy to the UN.

Afghanistan is scheduled to address the UN General Assembly on Sept 27.

Published in Dawn, September 24th, 2021



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