Pakistan trying to make Taliban, US talks fruitful

| Qureshi discusses Afghanistan situation with Qatari FM | PM to visit Turkey this week | Taliban reject Kabul’s dialogue offer saying they’ll only talk to US negotiators

ISLAMABAD   -   Pakistan is making efforts to make Afghan Taliban-US talks fruitful as Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi discussed the Afghanistan situation with his Qatari counterpart Sheikh Muhammed bin Abdul Rahman al Thani on Sunday.

Pakistan’s top diplomat met Thani and other Qatari leaders during a day-long visit to the country.

“The foreign ministers exchanged their views on the ongoing efforts for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan, bilateral relations and other important regional and global issues,” said a foreign ministry statement issued here.

There were reports that the Taliban had rejected Afghanistan government’s offer of talks in January in Saudi Arabia where the Taliban will meet the US negotiators.

Representatives from the Taliban, the United States and regional countries met this month in the United Arab Emirates for talks to end the 17-year war in Afghanistan. But the Taliban have refused to hold formal talks with the Western-backed Afghan government.

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said that the leaders of the group would not talk to the Afghan government. Earlier, reports said that the Taliban had agreed to meet the Afghan government for peace talks.

The Taliban, however, have insisted on first reaching an agreement with the United States, which the group sees as the main force in Afghanistan since US-led forces toppled the Taliban government in 2001.

Diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict have been intensified after the Taliban representatives started meeting US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad this year.

The foreign ministry statement said that Shah Mehmood Qureshi met Deputy Emir Sheikh Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Thani, the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al-Thani and also held a detailed meeting with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Qatar Sheikh Muhammad bin Abdul Rahman Al-Thani.

“Both sides expressed satisfaction on upwards trajectory of bilateral relations symbolised by exchange of recent high-level visits, starting with the visit of Foreign Minister of Qatar to Islamabad in October 2018,” said the statement.

Qureshi also briefed Qatari leadership on recent developments concerning peace in Afghanistan. He underlined foresightedness of Emir of Qatar in providing early foundation for peace and reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan.

He added that close and regular coordination between Pakistan and Qatar in this regard would assist the ongoing efforts to achieve a broader regional understanding for long term stability in Afghanistan and the region.

Foreign Minister Qureshi also highlighted vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan to strengthen relations with most important regional countries and neighbours of Pakistan, including Qatar. Both sides agreed that such synergy was necessary to overcome common hurdles and devise a consensus-based approach to achieve wider regional development and progress.

As part of high-level engagements in this spirit, Prime Minister Imran Khan is now due to visit Doha on mutually-agreed dates in January 2019.

The Foreign Minister assured leadership of Qatar of Pakistan’s commitment to further solidify bilateral political, economic and defence relations. He expressed satisfaction for opening of Qatar visa centres in Pakistan, adding that it would fast track recruitment process for import of 100,000 Pakistani workers by Qatar.

He offered services of professional Pakistani workforce for 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Qatar is already home to 140,000 Pakistani Diaspora, which provides a strong bond in the bilateral brotherly relations.

It was agreed to further speed up progress in economic, trade and investment sectors. It was noted that an increase in Pakistan’s exports to Qatar by 70.53%, mainly due to exports of food items, during the last financial year was a highly encouraging achievement. This export trend now needed to be replicated in export of non-perishable items as well. Pharmaceuticals, construction, shipping and maritime sectors held the best potential in this regard.

Pakistan also offered considerable investment opportunities for Qatari companies in special economic zones under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and for joint ventures.

It was agreed that avenues to fully explore these potentials would be explored during the upcoming Joint Management Committee and Bilateral Political Consultations in first quarter of 2019 in Doha.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Thani reiterated the desire of Amir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani to strengthen relations with Pakistan in all areas, particularly to achieve regional peace, stability as well as to promote bilateral economic and cultural cooperation.

He reiterated that Qatar’s commitment of brotherhood with Pakistan was beyond doubt and the relationship could only move from strength to strength, adding that Qatar looked forward to the visit of Pakistan PM that would add a fresh chapter in the bilateral ties.

Meanwhile, on invitation of the President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister Imran Khan will pay an official visit to Turkey on January 3-4. This will be Prime Minister’s first official visit to Turkey.

The Prime Minister will be accompanied by a high-level delegation including Minister for Foreign Affairs Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Minister for Planning Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtyar and Adviser to the Prime Minister Abdul Razak Dawood.

During the visit, the Prime Minister will meet the President of Turkey and discuss the entire spectrum of bilateral relations between the two countries. Views pertaining to regional and international situation will also be exchanged.

Imran Khan will also address a business forum and hold several meetings with Turkish businessmen and potential investors during his stay at Ankara.

Pakistan and Turkey enjoy historic and unparalleled ties based on a common religious and cultural legacy that dates back to centuries. The two countries have excellent political, economic, defence, cultural and people-to-people relations that continue to grow from strength to strength each passing year.

The Prime Minister’s upcoming visit to Turkey will further reinforce historic ties between governments and the peoples of the two brotherly countries.

The visit, moreover, will also help to explore new areas of cooperation and collaboration between the two countries, particularly in the area of economic, trade and commercial relations.

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