Afghanistan tops Russia-Pakistan talks in Islamabad | Political news

Islamabad, Pakistan – Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, with the two countries reaffirming their support for the Afghan peace process and expressing concern over the violence in that country.

Lavrov met with Qureshi at the Pakistani Foreign Ministry on Wednesday for delegation-level talks, and will also hold meetings with Prime Minister Imran Khan, Army Chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa and other senior officials. .

“We are also concerned about the deterioration of the security situation in Afghanistan and the increase in terrorist activities and the march of ISIL in the north and east of the country,” Lavrov said after his remarks. interviews with Qureshi.

“We agreed that we need to further facilitate adversarial and hostile parties [in Afghanistan] for them to come to an agreement and end a civil war based on inclusive dialogue. “

Lavrov, second from left, and Qureshi at Islamabad airport [Getty Images]

Qureshi said the two sides saw “good cooperation” on their Afghan policies.

“We also discussed the success of the meeting of the ‘enlarged troika’ [held in Moscow on March 18], the possibility of another meeting in Moscow and asked our envoys to keep in close contact to keep in touch and coordinate their positions, ”he said.

Earlier, a Russian statement said the country looked forward to quickly finding a constructive solution to end the civil war in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan through agreements on the formation of an inclusive government with the participation of the Taliban movement. . .

In an interview with a Pakistani newspaper published on Wednesday, Lavrov said Russia and Pakistan shared “an agreement or a similarity of approaches” to regional issues, including the situation in Afghanistan.

Lavrov’s visit to Pakistan comes as the May 1 deadline for the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan looms. Agreed upon in a peace accord signed between Washington and the Taliban, the withdrawal seems increasingly unlikely given the increase in violence in Afghanistan.

Direct peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban began last year in the Qatari capital, Doha, but progress has been slow and violence has escalated even as negotiators continue talks.

Russia held a one-day “Extended Troika” meeting on March 18, welcoming members of the Taliban and the Afghan government, as well as Pakistani, Chinese and US officials, in an effort to boost the peace process.

Warming up ties

The two countries also discussed military cooperation, with Russia providing new equipment to the Pakistani military.

“We have confirmed that we are ready to strengthen Pakistan’s counterterrorism potential, including providing Pakistan with special military equipment,” Lavrov said. “It serves the interests of all states in the region.”

Lavrov’s visit to Pakistan is the first by a Russian foreign minister in nine years and marks the recent warming of relations between the two countries.

Pakistan has been actively participating in Russia-led Eurasian initiatives such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) since 2017.

Increasing bilateral trade will also be high on the agenda, foreign ministries of both countries said.

In the last fiscal year, trade between countries amounted to nearly $ 350 million, up 45% from the previous year, according to data from Pakistan’s central bank.

The two countries have also been involved in large infrastructure projects, with Russia building a major gas pipeline alongside Pakistan.

On Wednesday, however, Russia’s foreign minister cited bilateral trade of “$ 790 million,” an increase he said was due to Russian wheat exports to Pakistan.

The meeting was the third between the two foreign ministers after meeting on the sidelines of the SCO summit in Kyrgyzstan in June 2019, and again at a SCO meeting in Moscow in September last year. .

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, left, and his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi at a meeting in Islamabad [Reuters]

“In recent times, deepening collaboration in the economic, trade and energy sectors has been at the center of the concerns of the two governments,” said a statement from the Pakistani foreign ministry.

The two countries reaffirmed their commitment to a major gas pipeline project to link the southern Pakistani city of Karachi, the country’s largest, to the eastern city of Lahore.

The project, whose agreements were signed in 2015, has stalled since then, but Qureshi said Wednesday’s negotiations removed several obstacles.

“We have overcome many obstacles and I am reassured to have received their response to some of the amendments to the intergovernmental agreement [of 2015] … And I reassure the Minister of Foreign Affairs that Pakistan… wants to move forward with [this project]Qureshi said.

Regarding coronavirus vaccines, Lavrov said Russia had already sold 50,000 doses of the Russian-developed Sputnik V vaccine to Pakistan, and was due to provide an additional 150,000 doses “soon.”

The two countries also discussed the possibility of signing agreements on local production of the Sputnik V vaccine in Pakistan to help meet demand in the country of 220 million people.

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