Pakistan, Afghan bilateral forum to meet soon

FM Qureshi discusses bilateral ties with Afghan counterpart


Kamran Yousaf April 20, 2020
PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/@imrankhan.pti

ISLAMABAD: Islamabad and Kabul will soon hold the next session of Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS), a bilateral forum set up in May 2018 as part of efforts not only to remove mistrust but also improve ties between the two neighbours.

The agreement to arrange the next meeting of APAPPS was reached during a telephonic conversation between Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and his Afghan counterpart, Hanif Atmar, on Monday.

Atmar was recently appointed as acting Afghan Foreign Minister by President Ashraf Ghani. He is one of the influential figures in Afghanistan as he previously served as the country’s interior minister as well as national security adviser.

A statement issue by the Foreign Office said Qureshi congratulated Atmar on his recent appointment and expressed hope that during his tenure, there would be enhanced interaction between the foreign ministries of the two countries.

Prospect of enhancing bilateral relations in all areas were discussed. Qureshi reiterated the importance of existing bilateral mechanisms. He hoped that the next session of APAPPS would be held soon which would help further strengthen bilateral cooperation in various fields.

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Atmar thanked Qureshi on his message of felicitations. He concurred with the foreign minister on utilising the existing mechanisms, including APAPPS, to take forward bilateral relations.

The APAPPS was established in May 2018 as part of efforts by two sides to sort out issues though negotiations. The APAPPS framework provides a comprehensive and structured mechanism to enhance engagement between counterpart institutions of the two countries. APAPPS comprises five working groups on politico-diplomatic, military, intelligence, economic and trade and refugees issues.

The last meeting of the forum was held in Islamabad in June 2019. The next meeting was supposed to take place in Kabul in December. The delay has apparently been attributed to uneasy relationship between the two countries.

Although, Pakistan has played a vital role in brokering the deal between the US and Afghan Taliban, the Ghani administration still feels suspicious about Islamabad’s role. Observers hope the revival of APAPPS will help address the mistrust.

Pakistan and Afghanistan have often blamed each other for supporting certain groups to advance their strategic interests.

The Afghan security forces recently arrested Aslam Farooqui, the head of anti-Pakistan ISIS-Khorsan. Kabul, however, refused to hand over the most-wanted man to Pakistan. It is believed the Afghan authorities said such issues could be discussed at proper forums including APAPPS.

Meanwhile, the two foriegn ministers discussed the progress in the Afghan peace process, which has been facing delay because of deadlock over the issue of prisoner swap.

The Afghan government and Taliban did exchange some inmates recently but there is no indication as to when the intra-Afghan dialogue agreed in the US-Taliban deal begins.

Qureshi reiterated Pakistan’s steadfast support to the Afghan peace and reconciliation process and said that the US-Taliban Peace Agreement provided a historic opportunity for the Afghan leadership to jointly work for the ultimate aim of a peaceful and stable Afghanistan.

The Afghan foreign minister appreciated Pakistan’s role in advancing the peace efforts. Foreign Minister Qureshi highlighted that as a neighbor with abiding solidarity, Pakistan valued its fraternal relations with Afghanistan.

In view of Covid-19, Pakistan had taken a number of steps, at the request of the government of Afghanistan, to assist in the movement of Afghan nationals and cargo trucks and containers. Qureshi expressed the hope that Afghanistan would be able to control the spread of Covid-19 effectively. Atmar appreciated the steps taken by Pakistan to facilitate return of Afghan nationals and movement of cargo and trucks, in view of Covid-19.

The two sides also discussed further steps to deepen the bilateral economic relationship. “Pakistan will continue to support a peaceful, stable, united, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan, at peace with itself and with its neighbours,” Qureshi was quoted by the Foreign Office as saying.

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