Pakistan hosts US, Russia, China for talks on Afghanistan

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan on Thursday hosted talks with special envoys from the United States, Russia and China on the path forward for Afghanistan, where a deepening humanitarian crisis has forced many Afghans to migrate to neighboring countries since the Taliban takeover in August.

The international community has not recognized the government appointed by the Taliban. Afghanistan’s Taliban-appointed foreign minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi, did not attend the meeting but later met with the special envoys in Islamabad.

He also met separately with Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and other officials to discuss a range of issues, including how to help Kabul overcome a deepening economic crisis and avoid a refugee crisis.

The meeting released a joint statement appealing for the international community to urgently provide humanitarian aid to the Afghan people. It also urged the Taliban to form an inclusive and representative government that respects the rights of all Afghans and provides for the equal rights of women and girls to participate in all aspects of the Afghan society.

The statement “welcomed the Taliban’s continued commitment to allow for the safe passage of all who wish to travel to and from Afghanistan and encouraged rapid progress, with the onset of winter, on arrangements to establish airports countrywide that can accept commercial air traffic, which are essential to enable the uninterrupted flow of humanitarian assistance.”

It also condemned recent deadly attacks in Afghanistan and asked “the Taliban to cut ties with all international terrorist groups, dismantle and eliminate them in a decisive manner, and to deny space to any terrorist organization operating inside the country.”

Thursday’s gathering in Islamabad comes weeks after Russia hosted similar talks on Afghanistan, which Washington did not attend. On Wednesday, India hosted senior security officials from Russia, Iran and five Central Asian countries to discuss the ramifications of the Taliban takeover. India’s archrival Pakistan and its ally China boycotted those talks.

The Taliban seized power in a blitz offensive that captured the capital, Kabul, and most of the country on Aug. 15, ahead of the final withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan after 20 years of war.

In his remarks at the meeting, Qureshi expressed concerns that an economic collapse in Afghanistan would cause broader instability.

“All of us have common concerns related to Afghanistan and also have a shared interest in the country’s peace and stability,” he said, and also called for the release of Afghan funds frozen by the world community.

Qureshi urged for an “engagement with the new Afghan government” to “help consolidate peace and stability, promote sustainable economic development and help constrict space for terrorist outfits operating from and within Afghanistan,” he said.

“With international funding dried up, it has become difficult to pay even salaries, let alone pursue development projects,” he added. “The common man is reeling under the effects of a severe drought. Any further downward slide will severely limit the new administration’s capacity to run the government” in Afghanistan.

After the meeting, Qureshi said he had told participants the talks would be more productive with the Taliban representative in the room. He said the next meeting of the group was due in Beijing, where the Taliban representative will be invited.

Pakistan has been urging nations to free Afghanistan’s assets abroad to enable the Taliban to access those funds to avert the deepening crisis. The Taliban-run administration currently does not have access to the Afghan central bank’s $9 billion in reserves, most of which is held by the New York Federal Reserve.

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