Int'l engagement with Afghanistan crucial to avert civil war, Qureshi tells Troika Plus meeting

Published November 11, 2021
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi addresses the 9th meeting of Troika Plus in Islamabad on Thursday. — Photo courtesy: Foreign Office
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi addresses the 9th meeting of Troika Plus in Islamabad on Thursday. — Photo courtesy: Foreign Office
A group photo of  world leaders flanked alongside Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi (third from left) participating in the Troika Plus meeting.  — Photo courtesy: Foreign Office
A group photo of world leaders flanked alongside Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi (third from left) participating in the Troika Plus meeting. — Photo courtesy: Foreign Office

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said on Thursday that it was crucial for the international community to avoid repeating mistakes of the past and pursue positive engagements in order to avert economic collapse or an all-out civil war from breaking out in Afghanistan,.

Addressing the opening session of the two-day meeting of Troika Plus — comprising US, Russia, China and Pakistan — held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the foreign minister said engagement with Afghanistan was important as nobody wished to see a relapse into civil war and an economic collapse to spur instability.

"Everyone wants terrorist elements operating inside Afghanistan to be tackled effectively and we all want to prevent a new refugee crisis," he said.

He said peace in Afghanistan was not only important for Pakistan, but for the rest of the world as well.

The foreign minister said that Afghanistan stood at the brink of economic collapse today and with international funding dried up, it had become difficult to even pay salaries, let alone pursue development projects.

Read more: US wants neighbours not to recognise ‘imposed’ govt in Afghanistan

He said people were reeling under the effects of a severe drought, adding that any further downward slide would severely limit the new administration's capacity to run the government.

"It is, therefore, imperative for the international community to buttress the provision of humanitarian assistance on an urgent basis," he stressed, adding that the sectors of health, education and municipal services required urgent attention.

The foreign minister said enabling Afghanistan to access its frozen funds would dovetail into the efforts to regenerate economic activities and move the Afghan economy towards stability and sustainability.

Similarly, he said, the UN and its agencies must be urged to find ways to reach out to the common Afghan and help stabilise the situation.

Qureshi said being an immediate neighbour, Pakistan had a direct stake in Afghanistan's peace and stability.

With a shared heritage and history, we consider every ethnic community of Afghanistan important in the final destiny of the country, he said.

He mentioned that Pakistan had already taken a number of steps to facilitate people in Afghanistan.

"These include waiver of customs duties on perishable food items to support farmers in Afghanistan, provision of humanitarian assistance, facilitating pedestrian movement, keeping the border open during Covid-19 and visa on arrival for medical cases."

Also read: Pakistan supports inclusive political settlement in Afghanistan

He recalled that during his visit to Kabul last month, he had endeavoured to understand the new Afghan government's expectations from the international community.

"It also provided us the opportunity to share our assessment with the Taliban leadership and highlight the international community's expectations of them," he said.

"We believe Taliban are interested in engagement, as they seek international acceptance and support," he added.

The meeting was attended by Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood, Pakistan's Ambassador to Afghanistan Mansoor Ahmad Khan, Pakistan's Special Representative to Afghanistan Muhammad Sadiq, US State Department's Special Representative and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Afghanistan Thomas West, Russia's Special Envoy for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov and China's Special Representative for Afghanistan, Yao Jing.

Separately, Prime Minister Imran Khan also urged the international community to fulfil "its collective responsibility to avert a grave humanitarian crisis confronting [the] people of Afghanistan".

Expressing these views in a tweet, he added that his government had assured Afghan Foreign Minister Amir Khan Mutaqqi, who is on a three-day visit to Pakistan, of providing "all possible humanitarian aid to Afghanistan."

"Pakistan has always stood with the Afghan people in their hour of need ... We are sending essential food items, emergency medical supplies and winter shelters to provide immediate relief to Afghan ppl. We will also provide free Covid-19 vaccines to all Afghans travelling across the border into Pakistan," he tweeted.

Meeting discusses latest situation in Afghanistan

Meanwhile, a statement issued by the Foreign Office (FO) stated that the extended Troika meeting discussed the latest situation in Afghanistan and also met with senior Taliban representatives on the sidelines.

According to the handout, the four participating states — China, Pakistan, Russia and the US — expressed deep concern regarding the severe humanitarian and economic situation in Afghanistan and reiterated their unwavering support for the Afghans.

The states also recalled relevant Afghan-related United Nation Security Council resolutions, including respect for the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Afghanistan.

The extended Troika welcomed the Taliban's continued commitment to allow for the safe passage of all who wish to travel to and from Afghanistan and encouraged rapid progress, with the onset of winter, on arrangements to establish airports countrywide that can accept commercial air traffic, the statement said.

The meeting "called on the Taliban to work with fellow Afghans to take steps to form an inclusive and representative government that respects the rights of all Afghans and provides for the equal rights of women and girls to participate in all aspects of Afghan society," the statement added.

The countries also agreed to continue practical engagement with the Taliban to encourage the implementation of "moderate and prudent policies" that can help achieve a stable and prosperous Afghanistan as soon as possible, it said.

The meeting stressed that access to education for women and girls at all levels is an international obligation and encouraged the Taliban to accelerate efforts to provide full and equal access to education countrywide.

On the other hand, the meeting welcomed the international community’s urgent provision of humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan. At the same time, the meeting expressed grave concern at a potential economic collapse, a significantly worsening humanitarian crisis and a new refugee wave.

The states called on the Taliban to ensure unhindered humanitarian access for the delivery of humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan to respond to the developing crisis.

Appreciating the role played by the UN, the meeting urged it and its specialised agencies to develop programmes to implement the international community’s commitments to support the people of Afghanistan.

The meeting condemned recent terrorist attacks in Afghanistan and called on the Taliban to "cut ties with all international terrorist groups, dismantle and eliminate them in a decisive manner, and to deny space to any terrorist organisation operating inside the country," the statement said.

The Troika reaffirmed their expectation that the Taliban will fulfill their commitment to preventing the use of Afghan territory by terrorists against its neighbours, other countries in the region and the rest of the world, the statement said.

The states also urged the Taliban to take a "friendly approach" towards neighbouring countries and to uphold Afghanistan's international legal obligations, it added.

The meeting also called on the international community to take concrete steps to provide Afghanistan with help against Covid-19, the statement said.

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