Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi will visit Turkey this week as part of efforts to seek a political end to the Afghan war, amid reports that Ankara is in talks with Islamabad to ensure security of Kabul Airport after the US and Nato forces’ withdrawal from the war-torn country.
During his three-day visit, Qureshi will attend the Antalya Diplomacy Forum, which will also be attended by Dr Abdullah Abdullah, the head of Afghan High Peace Council and former President Hamid Karzai as well as other delegates from different countries.
The foreign minister is likely to meet the Afghan leaders on the margins of the forum, which will discuss the way forward for the Afghan peace process. There is a stalemate in the Intra-Afghan dialogue, as Afghan Taliban are not willing to attend the Istanbul Conference, a US initiative to seek a deal among the Afghan players.
On Monday, Qureshi, while addressing the Afghan track-II dialogue, said that the time was running out for a peace deal in Afghanistan. He urged the Afghan leadership to cease the window of opportunity, which according to him, would not remain open forever.
With the US and NATO all set to complete the drawdown well ahead of September 11 deadline announced by US President Joe Biden earlier this year, there are fears that Afghanistan may yet again slip into a new wave of unrest and civil war.
At the NATO summit in Brussels, member countries agreed to keep the Kabul Airport operational after withdrawal of the foreign forces from Afghanistan. Turkey has been asked to provide security for this purpose.
Turkish President Recep Tayab Erdogan raised the possibility that Ankara could cooperate with the US for possible role in securing the international airport in Kabul after the US completes its troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.
But Turkish officials had said they would want financial assistance in exchange for a military presence in Kabul. Erdogan announced no firm deal on the airport but said Turkish forces might work jointly in Afghanistan with those of Pakistan and NATO member Hungary.
“If Turkey is not asked to leave Afghanistan, the US support on the diplomatic, logistical and financial front is very important,” he said.
There is no immediate reaction from Pakistan but the issue is likely to come up for discussion when Foreign Minister Qureshi meets the Turkish President on the sidelines of the Antalya Diplomacy Forum this week.
Observers are wary of Pakistan’s role inside Afghanistan given the trust deficit between Islamabad and Kabul. Qureshi admitted the other day that the major obstacle in the way of improving ties between Pakistan and Afghanistan was the trust deficit.