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China to facilitate improvement in Pak-Afghan relations

BEIJING – China has put its weight behind “improving” relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan amid the US drawdown from the war-torn country after 20 years of fighting the Taliban.

“China emphasized its readiness to continue to play a constructive role in facilitating the improvement of relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan,” said a joint statement by the Chinese Foreign Ministry after the Fourth China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Trilateral Foreign Ministers’ Dialogue, which was held virtually on Thursday.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and his Pakistani and Afghan counterparts Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Haneef Atmar attended the meet hosted by Beijing. Last such meeting was held in Islamabad in 2019.

Pakistan and Afghanistan share a border, as well as historical and cultural ties but the relationship has not been cordial in recent times. Both accuse each other of providing safe havens to terrorists who launch attacks across the border.

Pakistan is regarded as a key player in the Afghan peace process as the US and other foreign troops are set to leave Afghanistan by Sept. 11. It also hosts nearly three million Afghan refugees who have fled violence in their country.

Last November, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan paid his maiden visit to Afghanistan and the two sides reaffirmed to “look towards a future relationship built on trust.”

China, Pakistan and Afghanistan have now “reaffirmed” their commitments to strengthening political mutual trust, enhancing exchanges and communication, and forging closer-good neighborly relations and partnership.

‘DOUBLE STANDARDS’ ON TERRORISM

The three nations said they will jointly “fight terrorism in all its forms.”

“It is important to reject ‘double standards’ in counter-terrorism, not let any terrorist organization or individual use their respective territories for activities against other countries, and redouble joint efforts against the ETIM, TTP and Daesh and any other terrorist group,” the statement said.

While China has declared the East Turkistan Islamic Movement or ETIM, a separatist movement in Xinjiang, as a “terror” group; Pakistan has been fighting the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP terror group for more than a decade.

Similarly, Daesh or ISIS is an internationally recognized group that has claimed several attacks in South Asia and beyond, specifically Afghanistan.

China, Pakistan and Afghanistan, the statement said, reaffirmed that they will “deepen cooperation” under the Belt and Road Initiative, Regional Economic Cooperation Conference, ‘Heart of Asia’ Istanbul Process and other regional economic initiatives.

They also agreed to advance cooperation in their fight against COVID-19.

PAKISTAN WARNS AGAINST ‘IRRESPONSIBLE REMARKS’

Qureshi, in a statement on Friday, said he had detailed discussions on the future of Afghanistan, which has entered a critical phase.

“I have invited the Afghan foreign minister to Pakistan to further deliberate on the Afghan peace process, intra-Afghan dialogue and a future strategy,” he said.

He said irresponsible and negative remarks by the Afghan national security adviser could help spoilers. “Our goals are very clear, we want peace and stability in the region,” he reiterated.

Reacting to Qureshi’s remarks, the Afghan Foreign Ministry said that the true ‘spoilers’ of peace in Afghanistan are those who reject the legitimate demands of the Afghan people for peace, and a cease-fire.

“Peace in Afghanistan, in which the interests of the countries of the region, especially Pakistan, are tied, cannot be achieved by mere statements and declarations. The people of Afghanistan and the international community look forward to Pakistan taking steps to start meaningful peace talks and achieve lasting results,” it said.

The ministry added that accusations at this point are neither constructive nor in the interest of peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region.

The controversy emerged last month when Afghan National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib not only repeated his allegations of Pakistan supporting the insurgency in Afghanistan, but also launched an expletive-laden tirade against Islamabad.






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