ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Monday of­­fered to host next month a meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) foreign ministers on Afghanistan that had been requisitioned by Saudi Arabia.

“We have also offered to host the meeting, in Islamabad, on 17 December 2021. We are confident that OIC member states will endorse this offer,” said Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

Saudi Arabia has convened the meeting for discussing the aggravating humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.

“Guided by principles of Islamic solidarity with the people of Afghanistan, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as Chair of the Islamic Summit, and in line with relevant OIC decisions on Afghanistan, called upon the OIC to, urgently, convene an Extra­ordinary Ministerial Meeting to discuss the humanitarian situation in the country and pathways for an urgent humanitarian response,” Saudi Arabia said in a statement published by its official newswire SPA.

Mr Qureshi said that Pakistan fully endorsed the Saudi initiative.

Saudi Arabia calls for foreign ministers-level session

Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, noted Pakistan’s offer to host the meeting.

It said that objectives of the meeting were to explore “means and mechanisms” for aid delivery in coordination with UN agencies, international financial institutions, and the international community for mitigating the humanitarian crisis.

UN envoy for Afghanistan Deborah Lyons had on November 18 warned that Afghanistan was “on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe” and urged the international community to assist the people of Afghanistan.

It is estimated that nearly 60 per cent of Afghanistan’s 38 million population was facing extreme hunger.

“Millions of Afghan women, children, and elderly people are in need of immediate assistance, including access to food, medicine and shelter,” Saudi Arabia said while emphasising the seriousness of the situation.

“Impending economic collapse and further deterioration of living conditions will lead to more instability within Afghanistan, which will adversely affect regional and international peace and security,” the kingdom warned.

Backing the Saudi call, Mr Qureshi said the Afghans needed assistance “more than ever before”.

“As you are aware, Afghanistan currently faces a serious humanitarian situation — millions of Afghans, including women and children, confront an uncertain future due to shortage of food, medicine and other essential life supplies. The advent of winter has exacerbated the humanitarian crisis,” he added.

The foreign minister urged the OIC to step in to help Afghans. “We should step up our collective efforts to alleviate the humanitarian needs of the Afghan people, provide immediate and sustained support to them, and continue to remain engaged with them for the well-being and prosperity of Afghanistan,” he said.

Mr Qureshi expressed the hope that the OIC foreign ministers would consider concrete steps to help address the humanitarian and economic challenges being faced by Afghanistan.

Published in Dawn, November 30th, 2021

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