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Pakistan will continue to support a peaceful, sovereign Afghanistan: Qureshi

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi speaks during the 9th Heart of Asia–Istanbul Process (HoA-IP) Ministerial Conference

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Tuesday said that Pakistan will continue to support a peaceful, sovereign and prosperous Afghanistan, at peace with itself and with it's neighbours.

Besides facilitating the peace process, Pakistan is extending all possible support to Afghanistan, he said, adding that Pakistan had committed $1 billion to its development and reconstruction. "We also opened five border crossing points to facilitate bilateral and transit trade."

Qureshi stated that such steps were practical evidence of Pakistan's wish to develop meaningful ties with Afghanistan.

The foreign minister made the remarks while addressing the 9th Heart of Asia — Istanbul Process (HoA-IP) Ministerial Conference being held in Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe.

Qureshi is heading Pakistan's delegation which also includes Foreign Secretary Sohail Mehmood, Pakistan's Ambassador to Tajikistan Imran Haider, and other officials of the Foreign Office, according to a report by Radio Pakistan.

During his address, Qureshi said: "The Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process is an important platform bringing participating countries together to advance shared goals of peace, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan."

He stated that for Pakistan, Afghanistan was an important neighbour and a brotherly country with strong historical links. "No other nation could claim to have such immutable bonds with Afghanistan, and thus [be] more desirous of peace in Afghanistan, than Pakistan."

He stated that the Afghanistan peace process currently stood at a "defining juncture".

"Having faced conflict and instability for over 40 years, Afghanistan has never been so close to turning the tide." The minister also mentioned the gathering of Afghan leaders in September 2020 and the Doha peace agreement in January earlier that year.

"The progress created thus far has indeed created a historic opportunity for the Afghan leadership to achieve an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive negotiated political settlement. We have arrived at this stage guided by the conviction that there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan."

He stated that this belief continues to guide Afghan parties and the international community supporting the aspirations of the Afghan people.

"In our outreach to Afghan leaders across a wide spectrum, Pakistan has consistently urged them to remain engaged for securing a positive outcome. Our message to them is to take the process forward through substantive and result-orientated negotiations."

Qureshi also commented on the "formidable challenges" plaguing the peace process.

"We have consistently cautioned against the role of spoilers, both within and outside Afghanistan. We remain deeply concerned about the continuation of violence across Afghanistan. We fear that any space gained by ISIS and Al Qaeda could accentuate the threat of terrorism."

The foreign minister called on the international community to facilitate the peace process. "When the peace agreement was signed in Doha we called it a moment of hope and optimism. It must be our collective endeavour to ensure that this hope is not dissipated, that this rare opportunity is not lost.

"For this everyone will have to summon every ounce of patience, commitment and perseverance." Going forward spirit of feasibility and compromise would be indispensable, he said.

Recognition of Pakistan's stance on Afghan 'big success'

Meanwhile, Qureshi also said that recognition by the international community of Pakistan's long-time stance on Afghanistan was a "very big success".

Speaking before the start of the conference, Qureshi said the whole world knew Pakistan's stance, adding that the country's "sacrifices and efforts for peace and stability are not hidden".

Talking about the Afghan peace process, Qureshi said "everybody is united on one thing, that there is no way forward without peace."

He pointed out that a military solution to the decades-long conflict had not been found and the world was recognising what Pakistan had been saying for years, terming it a "very big success".

He added, however, that there were "difficulties".

When asked about his expectations from the conference, the foreign minister said Pakistan's "focus is on the future and on this region".

"We believe if there is peace and stability in the region, then our desire for regional connectivity will be furthered. It will benefit Pakistan and the region."

Qureshi said he would also meet the Afghan president and foreign minister later in the day and would also hold other bilateral meetings.