Meetings between Taliban, Western officials welcomed

Published October 16, 2021
Foreign Office spokesperson Asim Iftikhar Ahmad addresses a press conference in Islamabad. — Photo courtesy Radio Pakistan/File
Foreign Office spokesperson Asim Iftikhar Ahmad addresses a press conference in Islamabad. — Photo courtesy Radio Pakistan/File

ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office on Thursday welcomed recent meetings between representatives of Western countries and Taliban officials describing it as a positive development.

“In our view the US-Taliban talks are significant and should continue. And there have been other engagements as well, with the EU, and other countries and we think these are positive developments,” FO spokesman Asim Iftikhar said at the weekly media briefing.

Envoys and representative of US, European Union, and Western countries had met with a delegation of Taliban regime led by its foreign minister Mawlawi Amir Khan Muttaqi in Doha.

The Taliban delegation in the meetings discussed the situation in Afghanistan and demanded recognition for the new regime and resumption of development assistance so that salaries of employees could be paid.

FO says weakening of Afghanistan can lead to refugee exodus

They had further warned the international community that weakening of Afghanistan could lead to refugee exodus.

The representatives of the Western countries, meanwhile, assured provision of humanitarian assistance.

Pakistan has been the chief advocate of the international community’s engagement with Taliban regime that took control of Afghanistan after the fall of the Ghani government on Aug 15.

Islamabad put in a lot of diplomatic efforts to persuade the world not to abandon the Taliban.

“Pakistan has been consistent in suggesting that continued, constructive engagement of the international community with Afghanistan is necessary. We note that this message has got receptivity, and this is the way forward,” Iftikhar said.

He emphasised the need for “sustained engagement” between the two sides so that the objectives of peace and stability in Afghanistan could be achieved.

Pak-US Ties: The spokesman said Pakistan and the United States were cognizant of the importance of broad-based bilateral ties.

“Beyond Afghanistan, our relationship is progressing in a healthy manner. We are focusing on building a stand-alone and comprehensive partnership that taps the inherent merits and benefits of a broad-based relationship between our two countries, which as you know, has also been mutually beneficial in the past and has helped advance our shared interests,” Mr Iftikhar said.

His comments were in the context of US deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman’s visit to Islamabad. She had in comments in India prior to her Pakistan trip said that Washington no longer sees itself building a “broad-based relationship” with Pakistan and that she was going there with a “specific and narrow purpose” of talks on Afghanistan.

However, in Islamabad she back pedaled on her remarks in India by recalling the “decades-long standing relationship with Pakistan around a broad range of issues”. She had further said that during her conversations in Islamabad she had also touched upon geo-economics, clean energy, COP 26, and cooperation against Covid-19.

The spokesman said there were wide ranging discussions that touched on various areas of bilateral cooperation. He said the State Department’s readouts and deputy secretary’s own tweets about the meetings confirmed the broad nature of those discussions.

“It was agreed to continue close communication and coordination on the situation in Afghanistan, security and counter-terrorism, trade and investment, climate change, economic cooperation, and regional connectivity,” he further said.

He, however, regretted that certain quarters made “deliberate attempts” to undermine the Pak-US relationship through “misrepresentation and twisting of facts”.

Citing Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to Washington, the spokesman recalled that Indian foreign secretary had attributed certain remarks to the US Vice President with regard to Pakistan, which turned out to be untrue after they were checked with the Americans.

“We were given to understand that it was not the case,” he maintained.

Published in Dawn, October 16th, 2021

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