Top UK diplomat due today amid heightened Afghan diplomacy


ISLAMABAD:

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is due to arrive in Islamabad on Thursday (today) to discuss the Afghan situation as Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi hosted his Dutch counterpart and spoke with Canadian foreign minister on Wednesday as part of Pakistan’s diplomatic efforts, seeking support for the incoming government in Kabul.

Raab’s arrival in Islamabad is the third high-level visit from a Western country in a week, highlighting Pakistan’s centrality on the issue of Afghanistan. Secretary Raab’s visit comes on the heels of trips by the German and Dutch foreign ministers on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The flurry of visits by top diplomats from the key European countries show the West is keen to get the first-hand account of the ground situation after the fall of Kabul and a chaotic exit of the US and Nato forces from Afghanistan.

Official sources confirmed that the Foreign Secretary Raab will arrive here on Thursday (today) but he would have formal engagements with civil and military authorities on Friday. The sources added the focus of the visit would be on Afghanistan.

The top British diplomat will also seek Pakistan’s help to evacuate the remaining British citizens, who are thought to be still in Afghanistan. It is stated that MI6 chief recently paid a quiet visit to Pakistan and met the army chief.

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Pakistan considers the visits of the foreign ministers of key countries as an opportunity to share its perspective on Afghanistan and the way forward. The message from Pakistan is clear that it is not the time to leave Afghanistan alone.

During the talks with Foreign Minister Sigrid Kaad of The Netherlands, Qureshi reiterated Pakistan’s stance, seeking inclusive and broad-based government in Afghanistan. At the joint news conference, Qureshi said the world must not abandon the Afghan Taliban.

Qureshi insisted that humanitarian and economic assistance to Afghanistan must continue. He was of the view the consequences of leaving Afghanistan alone would be catastrophic and warned that the world must not repeat the mistakes of the past.

“We believe a peaceful Afghanistan is paramount with safety of the Afghan people and an inclusive political settlement,” Qureshi told reporters. “Our support and solidarity with the people of Afghanistan at this critical juncture is imperative,” he continued.

The Dutch foreign minister thanked Pakistan for hosting millions of Afghan refugees for over four decades. She said the European foreign ministers would meet on Friday to discuss the strategy for Afghanistan.

Qureshi said he also discussed with Kaad the cooperation between Pakistan and The Netherland, bilaterally and within the context of EU. “We appreciate the Dutch government’s consistent support of our GSP [Gneralised System of Preferences]-Plus status. Our increase in bilateral trade is important with The Netherlands being the 2nd largest country for Pakistan’s exports within EU,” he said.

The foreign minister also received a video call from his Canadian counterpart Marc Garneau, the Foreign Office said in a statement. The two foreign ministers reviewed the rapidly changing situation in Afghanistan and discussed the possibilities of providing humanitarian support to Afghanistan, it added.

During the talks Qureshi stressed the need for achieving an inclusive political settlement in Afghanistan and urged the international community to stay engaged with Afghanistan to put it on the path of progress and prosperity after four decades of conflict.

The Canadian foreign minister expressed gratitude to Pakistan for supporting the evacuation process and providing logistical support for successfully running the missions to rescue Canadian citizens from Afghanistan, after the fall of Kabul to the Taliban on August 15.

Garneau lauded the role of the of Pakistan’s foreign affairs ministry, particularly its Crisis Management Unit, in ensuring seamless repatriation of the Canadian officials and nationals from Afghanistan,” the Foreign Office statement said.

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Garneau informed Qureshi that Canada had provided C$50 million in humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan. Qureshi reiterated that Pakistan would continue to provide all possible support in evacuation of stranded Canadian citizens and for providing humanitarian assistance into Afghanistan.

In the bilateral context, the foreign minister called upon the Canadian government to ease visa regime for the Pakistani nationals, particularly the students. He also asked for positive revision of travel advisory for Pakistan like the UK as well as United Nations and other partners.

Later in the day, Qureshi took to Twitter about his conversation with Garneau. “Reiterated Pakistan’s continued support to evacuate those in need & our commitment to help humanitarian/economic development; Shared imp[ortance] of inclusive political settlement & for Int’l community to stay engaged,” Qureshi tweeted.

In a separate tweet, Garneau said he “spoke with Qureshi this morning”. He added: “As direct neighbour of Afghanistan, it’s important that we continue to engage Pakistan on these significant regional issues. I thanked him & the govt for its evacuation efforts, we discussed areas of cooperation to promote regional stability.”




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