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Pakistan urges Taleban to stay engaged in peace process: Qureshi

Reuters/Abu Dhabi
Filed on April 19, 2021
Wam

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 administration.


Pakistan on Monday urged the Taleban to remain engaged in the Afghan peace process after the armed group said it would now shun summits about Afghanistan until all foreign forces leave.

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 administration.

“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,” Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said of the Taleban in an interview in Abu Dhabi. Qureshi was on a three-day visit to the UAE and, on Monday, he met Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, the UAE’s Minister for Tolerance and Coexistence, in the Capital.

Taleban’s position on the issue has thrown the peace process into disarray, with Turkey scheduled to host a summit that diplomats had hoped could create new momentum towards a political settlement between the Taliban and Afghan government.

Qureshi said withdrawal delays were always a possibility due to logistics but that the Taleban had largely succeeded in their objective for foreign troops to withdraw and so should show flexibility towards the new September 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,” Qureshi said.

Sources have told Reuters Pakistan was putting pressure on the militants to come back to the table.

Qureshi said he believed the Taleban would benefit from staying involved but said he had no contact with the group.

He also said he feared violence could escalate if the peace process remains deadlocked, plunging Afghanistan into civil war and leading to an exodus of Afghans.

Pakistan, which hosts close to three million Afghan refugees and economic migrants, has built 90 per cent of a fence along its disputed 2,500km (1,500 mile) border with Afghanistan and would hopefully be completed by September, he said.

He also said Pakistan was ready to engage in direct dialogue with arch-rival India 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.





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