UNITED NATIONS: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has urged Pakistan to coordinate diplomatic engagement while dealing with Afghanistan, says the official US readout of his meeting with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

The two top diplomats met in New York on Thursday on the sidelines of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly and later in a tweet, Secretary Blinken said that the talks focused on “bilateral relations and Afghanistan’s future”.

The State Department, however, said that the secretary highlighted the importance of coordinating “our diplomatic engagement” in his meeting with Mr Qureshi.

Blinken says world is united in pressing Taliban to fulfil their obligations

The department’s spokesperson Ned Price said that the two leaders “discussed the way forward in Afghanistan” and Secretary Blinken “reiterated the importance of coordinating our diplomatic engagement and facilitating the departure of those wishing to leave Afghanistan”. The secretary noted that “the United States appreciates Pakistan’s support and assistance with both of these efforts”, he added.

In a press talk after a series of meetings with the foreign ministers of Pakistan, China, Russia and some other nations, Mr Blinken said he now believed the world was united in pressing the Taliban to fulfil their obligations.

Washington sees Pakistan, China and Russia as key players in Afghanistan and wants them to use their influence on Kabul’s new rulers for the change it desires.

In his opening remarks, the secretary said that Afghanistan was the focus of discussions at the UN Security Council on Wednesday night with the G20 nations, as well as in other bilateral and multilateral meetings. “Across those meetings, we underscored how critical it is that the international community remain united in its approach.”

He noted that the Taliban continued to seek legitimacy, international support and “our message to the international community is that any legitimacy or support that might flow to the Taliban depends on them meeting commitments they’ve made in key areas”.

He also underlined the key areas of change, also enshrined in a recent UN Security Council resolution:

Allowing foreign nationals and Afghans to travel outside the country.

Preventing terrorist groups from using Afghanistan as a base for external operations that threaten other countries.

Respecting basic human rights, particularly for women, children, minority groups, and refraining from reprisals.

Allowing unimpeded humanitarian access.

Forming a genuinely inclusive government that can meet the basic needs and reflect aspirations of the Afghan people.

The secretary said that this was “not a favour to the international community” but a basic requirement for a stable and secure Afghanistan.

“And as we hold the Taliban to these commitments, we’re continuing to work with other governments, with financial institutions, with NGOs to ease the flow of humanitarian assistance to Afghans whose lives depend on it,” he added.

Mr Blinken said that in his meetings with top diplomats from other nations, he found a “very strong unity of approach and unity of purpose” towards Afghanistan.

The talks indicated that the “relationship that the Taliban has with the international community is going to be defined by the actions it takes”, he added.

Although Pakistan has called for engagement with the Taliban and the unfreezing of Afghan assets, in his statements at the UNGA, Mr Qureshi also clarified that Islamabad was in no rush to recognise the new Taliban government.

In remarks to the media before his meeting with Mr Qureshi, Secretary Blinken said the US appreciated the work that Pakistan had done to facilitate the departure of American citizens and others from Afghanistan.

Mr Qureshi said Pakistan wanted the talks to focus on bilateral relations, not Afghanistan. “I thought a time would come where we’d be talking beyond Afghanistan, but it seems Afghanistan is there, we can’t wish it away,” he said.

And “we have to find a way of collectively working to achieve our common objective, which is peace and stability” in Afghanistan and the region, he added.

Published in Dawn, September 25th, 2021

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