Qureshi arrives in Kabul to meet Taliban government

KABUL/ISLAMABAD: On the heels of the Moscow format talks, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi arrived in Kabul Thursday on his first visit since the Taliban overran Afghanistan in mid-August, the Foreign Office said.

Accompanied by the chief of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, Faiz Hamid, Qureshi is the highest-ranking Pakistan official to visit Kabul since the Taliban announced their interim government in September.

On arrival in Kabul, the delegation was received by host Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi and Pakistan Ambassador to Afghanistan Mansoor Ahmad Khan at Kabul International Airport.

“During the one-day visit, he [Qureshi] will hold talks with Acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi and call on [the] leadership of the interim government in Kabul. He will meet other Afghan dignitaries as well,” the FO statement said.

“The talks between the two sides will cover the entire spectrum of bilateral relations and focus on ways and means to deepen cooperation in diverse areas.

Utilising the opportunity, the foreign minister will share Pakistan’s perspective on issues of regional peace and stability.”

Qureshi is the third foreign minister after those of Qatar and Uzbekistan to visit since the Taliban took power in mid-August.

Pakistan, one of only three countries that recognised the last Taliban regime in the 1990s, is seen as wielding considerable influence over the group.

Islamabad has long faced the US claims that its intelligence service supported the insurgents in their two-decade battle against foreign troops and the now-deposed Western-backed government of Ashraf Ghani who fled to take refuge in the United Arab Emirates.

On Wednesday, the Russian government hosted a high-level Taliban delegation and officials from 10 countries, including China and Pakistan, to push the militants for action against Islamic State fighters which it says have massed in perennially volatile Afghanistan.

In return, the Taliban — which is facing economic and humanitarian crises within its borders — urged the international community to recognise their interim government.

“Isolation of Afghanistan is not in the interest of any sides. And this has been proven in the past,” the Taliban Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Salam Hanafi told the Moscow conference.

“Therefore, we call on the international community to recognise the current government of Afghanistan.”

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