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International Community Must Continue Investing in Afghanistan: Qureshi

by Staff Report

Farooq Naeem—AFP

Pakistan’s foreign minister reiterates country’s desire for a ‘durable’ solution to the Afghan conflict

The international community must continue to play its role in the reconstruction and economic development of Afghanistan if they wish to see peace restored to the country, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said on Wednesday.

Addressing media in Islamabad after meeting a delegation of the Afghan Taliban led by the head of their political office in Qatar Mullah Ghani Baradar, he said that only through development could conditions in Afghanistan improve to the point it would be feasible for refugees to return to their homeland.

The foreign minister said that during his discussions with the Taliban, he had reiterated that Islamabad believed only dialogue could resolve the situation in Afghanistan. “A negotiated political settlement is the only way forward for a peaceful and stable Afghanistan,” he said.

“One thing clear [in our discussions] was that in the past 40 years, events brought a lot of damage to Afghanistan, Pakistan and the entire region,” said the foreign minister. “This is a historic opportunity to redress that damage and must not be wasted,” he said, adding that it was unfortunate that an expected reduction in violence had not emerged with the launch of peace talks.

“But this responsibility cannot be placed on the shoulders of the Taliban alone. All sides will have to play a role,” he said, adding that there were “many” reasons for the ongoing militancy in the war-torn state.

Qureshi said Pakistan wants a reduction in violence and wants Afghanistan to proceed toward ceasefire. “For a stable Afghanistan a comprehensive and inclusive settlement is required,” he said.

Future talks

Qureshi claimed the next round of peace talks between the insurgents and the Afghan government would commence on Jan. 5. He said the location had yet to be decided, adding that both sides had conveyed their preferences to each other.

He said the Taliban delegation was grateful to Pakistan for the country’s positive role in taking this matter forward and for taking care of Afghan refugees. He said they had acknowledged it was not in either their or Afghanistan’s favor for the conflict to continue. “From their discussions, I could sense seriousness toward achieving peace,” he added.

The foreign minister also stressed that Pakistan and Afghanistan shared similar customs, were both Muslim-majority states and therefore should work closely to bring peace to the region.

Three-day visit

A nine-member delegation of the Taliban Political Commission arrived in Islamabad on Wednesday morning from Doha for a three-day visit. Following their meeting with Qureshi, the delegation is set to meet Prime Minister Imran Khan and hold talks with senior government officials over peace talks.

The delegation will discuss issues of mutual interest, especially problems faced by Afghan refugees, relaxation and facilitation of Afghan movement to Pakistan, as well as issues faced by Afghan traders, according to a statement issued by the Foreign Office.

This is the third visit of Mullah Baradar to Pakistan and comes as the Taliban and Kabul take a 20-day break in their talks. Last week, U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad visited Islamabad and met Army Chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa. He expressed concern over the break in talks, adding that he hoped they would resume on Jan. 5, as the situation warranted urgent steps to reach a peace deal.

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