US senate panel seeks Pak support for Afghan peace

Acknowledges Islamabad’s constructive role so far in the process


​ Our Correspondent January 17, 2020
PHOTO: SHAH MEHMOOD QURESHI

ISLAMABAD: Ranking members of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on Thursday appreciated Pakistan’s role in the Afghan peace process and requested for Islamabad’s continued support in a meeting with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on the Capitol Hill.

Qureshi met several ranking US senators and members of the House of Representatives as he began his US visit with talks on bilateral relations, the situation in South Asia as well as the recent escalation in tensions in the Middle East.

Qureshi flew into Washington after meeting UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, General Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande of Nigeria and the President of the Security Council for the month of January, Dang Dinh Quy of Vietnam.

Earlier in a video message on Thursday, Qureshi said the Taliban have shown “a willingness” to reduce violence in war-torn Afghanistan after more than 18 years fighting the US, sparking speculation that a potential breakthrough in talks with the Americans may be near.

According to a statement issued by the Foreign Office spokesperson, Republican Senator Jim Risch and Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, welcomed the foreign minister to the Capitol.



Senators Risch and Menendez were joined by Senator Mitt Romney, former Republican presidential candidate and chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Asia, and Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, ranking member of the Asia subcommittee.

In the meeting, both sides shared their perspectives on the US-Pakistan bilateral relationship, the situation in South Asia, the Afghan peace process, and recent developments in the Middle East.

The foreign minister briefed the senators on India's brutal lockdown in Occupied Kashmir and its implications for the regional security. He said that peace and stability in South Asia would remain elusive until the Kashmir dispute was resolved in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people.

The committee members appreciated Pakistan’s role in the Afghan peace process and requested Pakistan’s continued support. The Foreign Minister said that Pakistan was committed to the political reconciliation process in Afghanistan.

The committee members appreciated Pakistan’s role in the Afghan peace process and requested Pakistan’s continued support. The Foreign Minister said that Pakistan was committed to the political reconciliation process in Afghanistan, the statement said.

The leadership of the committee agreed with the foreign minister to the need for continued cooperation between the two countries for achieving their common objectives on the bilateral and regional fronts.

Qureshi noted that the history of Pakistan-US relations bore testimony to the value of working together. He reaffirmed Pakistan's resolve to continue to play a constructive role and to work with the United States to bring peace in the region.

Referring to Pakistan's role in defusing tensions in the Middle East, the foreign minister said that "Pakistan is for peace and we would do whatever we can to promote and facilitate peace”.

Later, Qureshi met members of the Pakistan Caucus of the US Congress. The event was attended by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, chair, Congressional Pakistan Caucus, Congressman Thomas Suozzi Democratic Co-Chair and Congressman Jim Banks, Republican Co-Chair, as well as other members of the Caucus.

The meeting was also joined by Eliot Engel, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee as well as Congressman Ami Bera, Chairman of the House sub-Committee on Asia.

During the interaction, Qureshi underscored that Pakistan always valued its partnership with the US. He appreciated the Caucus for its role in further improving bilateral relations between Pakistan and the United States, which were already on an upward trajectory over the last year.

The foreign minister briefed the Caucus about the Pakistani government's vision for socio-economic progress and human development in the country as well as Islamabad’s efforts for regional peace and prosperity, including in facilitating peace in Afghanistan and defeating terrorism in the region.

He emphasised the significance of further strengthening people-to-people and inter-parliamentary linkages between the United States and Pakistan and urged the Caucus members to play their due role in this regard.

The foreign minister also briefed the members of the Caucus on the latest situation in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and the continuing Indian repression of the Kashmiri people.

The members of the caucus thanked the foreign minister for his briefing and appreciated Pakistan’s invaluable contributions for regional peace and security. They also recognised the role of the Pakistani American community in the US which was contributing towards further strengthening bilateral linkages and relations.

‘Taliban willing to reduce violence’

Earlier in a video message, Qureshi said the Taliban have shown “a willingness” to reduce violence in Afghanistan. He said that the talks between the United States and the Taliban had been continuing for some time and Pakistan desired some progress in these talks.

“Today, positive progress has been made, the Taliban have shown their willingness to reduce the violence, which was a demand… it’s a step towards the peace agreement,” Qureshi said. Pakistan has considerably fulfilled its responsibility regarding the Afghan peace process, he added.

“We desire that the entire region moves towards peace, which benefits both Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

Zabihullah Mujahid, the official Taliban spokesman, told AFP the Taliban were looking into Qureshi’s comments. However, a senior militia official told AFP on condition of anonymity that insurgents have propose a brief ceasefire in Afghanistan.

“It is an offer for a ceasefire either for seven or 10 days,” the senior Taliban official said, adding that the offer was made to US negotiators in Doha. “It has been finalised and given to the Americans. It is going to pave the way for an agreement.”

Meetings at UN

On Wednesday evening, Qureshi, during a high-level meeting with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, discussed human rights violations in India Occupied Kashmir (IOK) and Islamabad’s efforts to reduce tensions in the Persian Gulf region.

The foreign minister further highlighted the vital role being played by Islamabad in facilitating talks between the US and the Taliban.

Qureshi briefed Guterres about Pakistan’s efforts to defuse tensions between Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United States, following the assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and the missiles fired at US troops in Iraq.

He reiterated that Pakistan will promote peace and refrain from participating in any conflict, adding that the situation in the Middle East is grave, and the region cannot afford any new conflict. “To defuse tensions and promote peace, I visited Tehran and Riyadh earlier this week and will visit Washington tomorrow,” the foreign minister said in his statement.

Qureshi also lauded the UN chief for his efforts to address the gross human rights violation in occupied Kashmir. In a statement, the foreign minister said the UN secretary-general is monitoring the situation in the occupied region, adding that several countries have raised their voice against the barbaric treatment of innocent Kashmiris by Indian occupation forces.

Following his meeting with Secretary-General Guterres, FM Qureshi met with UN President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande to discuss regional and global issues. Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the UN Munir Akram was also present during the meeting.

The foreign minister appreciated the role of the United Nations in addressing various challenges – including climate change and poverty, and taking steps to achieve common goals of sustainable development.

He briefed the president about Prime Minister Imran Khan’s ‘Ehsaas Programme’ intended to protect the welfare of the people of Pakistan. The two also discussed developments in occupied Kashmir and Qureshi informed him that it has been 165 days since the lockdown in the region.

He said Kashmiris have been subjected to extreme brutality for months and urged the UNSC and UNGA to play an effective role to end the human rights crisis in the disputed valley. In his statement, the foreign minister reiterated Pakistan’s support for the oppressed Kashmiris.

“Let me also take this opportunity to address my brothers and sisters in Occupied Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan will continue to serve as the voice of the oppressed Kashmiris in the world. We continue to advance their inalienable right to self-determination as provided by several Security Council resolutions.”

Addressing a news conference after his meeting with the UN diplomats, the foreign minister urged the international community to raise its voice against the oppression of the people of occupied Kashmir.

Qureshi further stated that international scrutiny will pressurise the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi to reverse its unilateral measures and stop its human rights violations, ceasefire violations and threats against Pakistan.

 

With input from agencies

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