–FM says Pakistan will play its role when called upon, final decision rests with Kabul
ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said on Sunday that Pakistan supports an “Afghan-led” and “Afghan-owned” reconciliation process.
Qureshi was addressing a news conference in Islamabad a day after the signing of a deal between the United States and the Afghan Taliban that could pave the way toward a full withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan over the next 14 months and represent a step toward ending the 18-year-old war in the country.
Addressing the presser, Qureshi said that Pakistan will “play our role when we are called upon [but] it is their own country, it is their future and they will have to make those decisions”.
He added that it remains to be seen how much seriousness is shown in honoring the commitments made [in the deal]. Referring to the deal signed between the US and Taliban, which Pakistan hailed as a ‘harbinger of peace’, he said that the question now is how durable peace will be achieved.
“It has to be seen whether the Afghan leadership agrees to sit and make a political roadmap and when [they decide to do that] … they are the ones who have to make the decision as to what kind of Afghanistan they want.
“It will be a test for the [their] leadership. How much flexibility does the Afghan government show [for negotiations], will it keep Afghan interests foremost or its own interests … are they ready to compromise for larger interests?
“Will the Taliban cut off contacts with Al-Qaeda and others and will the world be satisfied?” he questioned.
Qureshi told the media that he had met with US Special Envoy for Afghan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad before the meeting, who said that “they had not seen such a reduction of violence in the past”. He added that the Taliban have shown that they have been successful in reducing violence across the country.
Qureshi also said that Pakistan’s role [in the Afghan peace process] is being heralded and appreciated by the world community. “The role that Pakistan has played as facilitator was being acknowledged and praised [at the ceremony]. People who used to criticise Pakistan were appreciating its role yesterday,” he added.
The minister remarked that “Pakistan will be the net beneficiary of peace in Afghanistan. If peace is established there, the trade will flourish … we will get access to central Asia.
“Yesterday’s ceremony generated very positive momentum. It is my opinion that maintaining this momentum is in all our interests. One thing that can do this is the release of prisoners. We have to see how progress can be made and how fast.”
He expressed the hope that Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani will realise the “importance of releasing the prisoners”.
QURESHI URGES US TO ‘DETER SPOILERS’
The foreign minister said that he met US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo after the signing and used the opportunity to exchange thoughts. Qureshi said that he had brought four points to Pompeo’s notice — deterring spoilers, optics of the next phase of the intra-Afghan dialogue, addressing political uncertainties in Afghanistan and mobilising international support and resources for rebuilding the country.
“There are spoilers both within Afghanistan and outside, you will have to keep a lookout for them and deter them. You have to identify them and put them to blame and shame. A mechanism is needed for that.”
He said that the optics from yesterday’s ceremony were beamed throughout the world and had its own significance and added that optics for the next phase were also necessary. He also emphasised that the next phase in the dialogue process should not be delayed.
“The third point is that [the US] will have to address political uncertainties in Afghanistan.” He added that America can play an important role in this. Qureshi said the US should mobilise international support and resources for two things — post-conflict building in Afghanistan and the return of refugees.
Qureshi said that he also met with the foreign ministers of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan who were present at the ceremony and told them that [our] next step should be increasing regional connectivity and access to the central Asian republics.
Qureshi also said that he met with Norway’s minister and assured her that “Pakistan is committed to an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation effort.” The minister also said that Pakistan expects Afghanistan will “not let any country such as India or any other country use their soil against Pakistan”.