Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi called on Wednesday for the international community to engage in preventing a humanitarian crisis and economic meltdown in Afghanistan, which were key priorities in the wake of recent developments in the country.
The minister’s remarks came during a virtual meeting of foreign ministers of Afghanistan’s neighbours – China, Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – to discuss developments in the country.
FM Qureshi emphasised that recent events had “catapulted” the region to a global spotlight, adding that “how the situation evolves will have profound implications for Afghanistan, our region and the world at large”.
“It is clear that no one could anticipate the recent turn of events from the meltdown of security forces to the collapse of the Afghanistan government,” he said, adding that all previous assessments and predictions had been proven wrong.
“In the wake of recent developments, the key priorities are to prevent a humanitarian crisis that can exasperate the suffering of the Afghans. Equally important is to take steps to prevent an economic meltdown in the country,” Qureshi added.
He emphasised that if a humanitarian crisis is prevented and economic stability assured then peace can be consolidated, and a mass exodus precluded.
FM Qureshi stressed that this required enhanced engagement of the international community, particularly at this “pivotal junction”.
“Renewed diplomatic and international presence in the country would reassure the Afghan people,” he stated, adding that urgent humanitarian assistance with the United Nations and its various agencies playing a lead role would reinforce the process of confidence-building.
Qureshi reiterated that “the much-dreaded bloodshed” had not occurred, while a protracted conflict and civil war had also been “averted”.
“The much-dreaded mass exodus of refugees had not yet taken place, thus far, and the situation remains complex and fluid,” he maintained.
FM Qureshi observed that everyone was grappling with a changed reality in Afghanistan, adding that the formation of a caretaker Afghan setup had been noted. He also expressed hope for swift political stabilisation that would lead to normalcy.
“The new situation requires discarding old lenses, developing new insights, and proceeding with a realistic and pragmatic approach. At the centre of our endeavours must remain the well-being of the Afghan people who have suffered enormously due to conflict and instability for over 40 years.”
FM Qureshi mentioned his conversation with the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and stated that both agreed that due to the situation in Afghanistan – that had implications for all six neighbours in the region – increased communication and coordination were vital.
He further discussed his recent diplomatic tour to Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Iran, saying he had in-depth and insightful discussions during the trip.
“We agreed on charting a way forward that would help address common challenges and realise the opportunities that may arise out of the latest developments,” he said.
According to the FM, the consultations brought forth the following issues that would need a coordinated approach as the situation in Afghanistan evolved:
- Security situation along the borders
- Prevention of Afghan soil being used by terrorist entities
- Possibility of a fresh influx of refugees
- Containing drug trafficking and transnational crimes
- Stemming any spread of extremist elements
- Challenges relating to the Covid-19 pandemic
- Impediments to regional connectivity
“We also agreed that there are rich dividends if peace is secured in Afghanistan, which could include: secure borders, end of the threat of terrorism from Afghan soil, the possibility of the return of refugees, economic stability, improvement in living standards, realisation of connectivity projects, and enhanced regional economic integration,” FM Qureshi stated.
He maintained that Afghanistan must be enabled to get through this “testing time” and realise its full potential in order to advance the common vision of a “peaceful, stable, prosperous and interconnected region”.
Qureshi highlighted several “key principles” that would guide the efforts towards the aforementioned direction:
- Affirm our full support and solidarity with the Afghan people
- Reaffirm our full commitment to the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Afghanistan
- Stress that Afghan issues should have Afghan solutions
- Must make clear that Afghan soil is not allowed to be used against any country
- Underscore the multi-ethnic nature of Afghan society
- Stress the importance of national reconciliation
The minister hoped that the deliberations would help carry forward the “collective thinking on a coordinated approach” to the myriad aspects of the situation in Afghanistan.
Qureshi further suggested turning the platform of neighbouring countries into a “regular consultative mechanism”, and further suggested considering the idea that Afghanistan should also be invited in the future.
“Participation of Afghanistan will augment this forum’s effectiveness in pursuing our shared objectives for lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan,” he stated.
“The neighbouring countries have a direct stake in Afghanistan’s stability. Our collective voice to the international community will reinforce our message of a peaceful, stable, and prosperous Afghanistan at peace with itself and its neighbours,” FM Qureshi said.