ABU DHABI/ ISLAMABAD:
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi urged the Taliban on Monday to remain engaged in the Afghan peace process after the group said it would now shun summits about Afghanistan until all foreign forces had leave the country.
The decision was taken after the United States said last week it would withdraw all troops by Sept 11 this year, later than a May 1 deadline set out by the previous Donald Trump administration last year after the two sides clinched a deal in Doha, Qatar.
“They take their own decisions but we will do whatever we can to convince them that it is in their national interest to remain engaged,” Qureshi, who is on a trip to the United Arab Emirates, said of the Taliban in an interview with Reuters in Abu Dhabi.
The Taliban refusal has thrown the peace process into disarray with Turkey scheduled to host a summit this Saturday, which diplomats had hoped would create new momentum towards a political settlement between the Taliban and Afghan government.
Qureshi said delays to the withdrawal were always a possibility due to logistics but that the Taliban had largely succeeded in their objective for foreign troops to withdraw and so should show flexibility towards the new Sept 11 deadline.
“The troops will be out and a date has been given and the process starts on the 1st of May and goes on until the 11th of September so there is a definite time frame,” he said, adding that he believed the Taliban would benefit by remaining engaged in the process if they show patience and perseverance.
The foreign minister said that he had no contact with the Taliban. He expressed the fear that violence could escalate if the peace process remains deadlocked, plunging Afghanistan into civil war and leading to an exodus of Afghans.
Commenting on the Pakistan-India relations, Qureshi said that Islamabad was ready to engage in direct dialogue with New Delhi once Jammu and Kashmir statehood was restored, which New Delhi in 2019 split into territories.
“We are two atomic powers that cannot, should not go into a direct conflict. It would be suicidal,” Qureshi said. But he said he had no plans to meet with his Indian counterpart, who is also in the UAE this week.
Meanwhile, Qureshi meets UAE of Tolerance and Coexistence Sheikh Nahyan Mabarak Al Nahyan and discussed with him the prospects of enhancing bilateral cooperation, particularly in the fields of investment, tourism and related infrastructure, the Foreign Office said in a statement in Islamabad.
Sheikh Nahyan Mabarak, who is also the commissioner general for Expo-2020, Dubai, has played a key role in the well-being of Pakistani community in the UAE. He is also a major investor in the banking and telecommunications sectors in Pakistan.
The two ministers also exchanged views on the importance of tolerance and coexistence in presenting the true image of Islam and the Islamic society. Qureshi briefed Sheikh Nahyan about the issues faced by the Pakistani community, in particular the restrictions on visa-related matters.
The two minister exchanged views in detail on the Expo-2020, Dubai being held in October this year. Lauding the one-of-its-kind mega event in the region, Qureshi thanked the UAE’s support in setting up the Pakistan Pavilion in the Expo.
Qureshi discussed ideas regarding optimal utilisation of the Pakistan pavilion with a view to successfully showcasing Pakistan’s ‘Hidden Treasure’ – the theme of Pakistan’s pavilion. The foreign minister requested Sheikh Nahyan to grace the event, which was warmly accepted.