Russia backs Pakistan's effort for Afghan settlement

Qureshi, Russian counterpart agree to continue efforts for supporting reconciliation

Kamran Yousaf December 26, 2018
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi. PHOTO: TWITTER/ @ForeignOfficePk

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Russia on Wednesday agreed to continue efforts, including through "Moscow Format of Consultations”, for supporting what they called the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.

The understanding between the two countries was reached during a visit of Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi to Moscow where he held talks with his Russian counterpart Sargey Lavrov.

Qureshi, who was accompanied by Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua, was visiting Russia as part of four-nation tour to the regional countries against the backdrop of recent developments regarding Afghanistan.

Before touring Moscow, the foreign minister visited Kabul, Tehran and Beijing with focus on the Afghan endgame.

Beijing, Islamabad hold extensive talks on Afghanistan peace process

Pakistan’s move to reach out to the key regional countries came just days after direct talks between the Afghan Taliban and US officials in Abu Dhabi.

The talks were brokered by Pakistan and also attended by envoys of UAE and Saudi Arabia. It is believed that the Abu Dhabi parleys made significant progress towards achieving a political solution to the 17-year long war in Afghanistan.

Another development that is of great significance was the recent move by President Donald Trump to withdraw half of 14,000 US troops from Afghanistan.

The Foreign Office officials pointed out that these developments necessitated consultations with key regional countries.

Pakistan, Russia, China and Iran have been regularly interacting to find a political solution to the Afghan problem. They are particularly concerned over the rise of Da’esh in the war-torn country.

Last month, Russia hosted a conference on Afghan peace attended by Taliban representatives as well as envoys from Pakistan, China, Iran and others.

The US; however, was conspicuous by its absence. The US is thought to be wary of Russia’s growing role in Afghanistan and that was the reason it was not forthcoming to be part of the Moscow process.

However, following their meeting, the foreign ministers of Russia and Pakistan specifically mentioned the Moscow Format for the Afghan peace efforts.

This indicates that Pakistan, besides cooperating with the US, is also looking for regional consensus on the Afghan endgame.

One Pakistani official told The Express Tribune that the whole purpose of the foreign minister’s visit was to take all the key regional players into confidence on the recent peace talks in Abu Dhabi.

A statement issued by the Foreign Office here said the two ministers agreed to continue efforts, including through Moscow Format of Consultations, for supporting reconciliation under an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.

“Recent developments concerning Afghan peace process were also discussed,” the statement read.

It was underlined that being the most important stakeholders, Pakistan and Russia had shared interests and concerns in Afghanistan and had the common goal of supporting all efforts to restore peace and stability in the country.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov acknowledged Pakistan’s efforts in the Afghan settlement and offered Russia’s support to bring stability in the region. Both leaders also underscored the need to harmonise various regional approaches for developing a regional consensus on issues.

The two sides also discussed the bilateral relationship. Foreign Minister Qureshi stated that Pakistan greatly values its relations with the Russian Federation. He also expressed the government of Pakistan’s desire to forge a long-term, multidimensional partnership and friendship with Russia.

Both sides expressed satisfaction on the upward trajectory of bilateral relations. The first meeting between Prime Minister Imran Khan and Prime Minister Dimitry Medvedev in Shanghai in November had set the tone to deepen cooperation in all areas. Views were also exchanged to support each other’s position in multilateral forums. It was also decided to maintain close and regular contact for strengthening understanding on important issues.

Afghanistan ceasefire push in focus in US, Taliban talks

Separately, a top Iranian security official on Wednesday said Iran met with the Afghan Taliban.

Iran's Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Shamkhani made the announcement while on a visit to the Afghan capital Kabul, several Iranian agencies reported.

"The Afghan government has been informed of the communications and talks carried out with the Taliban, and this process will continue," he said, quoted by Tasnim News Agency.

No details on where the talks took place were given by the news agency, which is considered close to Iran's Revolutionary Guards.

"The Islamic Republic has always been one of the primary pillars of stability in the region and cooperation between the two countries will certainly help in fixing Afghanistan's security issues of today," Shamkhani said.

Abas Aslani, a reporter for Tasnim, tweeted that it was the first time talks had been confirmed between Iran and the Taliban.

The announcement follows reconciliation talks last week between the United States and Taliban officials in Abu Dhabi.

The Taliban said they also held meetings with officials from the UAE, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, but the militants refused to meet a delegation from Afghanistan. (Additional Input from AFP)


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