ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Wednesday held a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov on his trip to Moscow, his last stop on a whirlwind four-nation tour which included Afghanistan, Iran and China.
Topping the agenda on Qureshi’s list was taking the four nations into confidence on Pakistani efforts for Afghanistan reconciliation process, after US President Donald Trump wrote a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan seeking Pakistan’s help in mending Afghan peace process.
Last week, Pakistan brokered a meeting between the United States and the Taliban in Abu Dhabi in a bid to pave the way for reviving the peace process that has remained stalled since 2015. On board were UAE and Saudi Arabia also.
The talks were arranged after Trump overture to PM Khan preceded by a patch of tense ties between the US and Pakistan since the former last year announced his Afghanistan and South Asia strategy in which Islamabad was accused of not acting against terrorist safe havens.
During the course of its bad patch in ties with the US, Pakistan increased its interactions with China, Iran, and Russia for Afghan peace. Now that Pakistan has agreed to assist the US in achieving peace in Afghanistan, Qureshi’s visit is meant to reassure regional partners that Islamabad is not ditching them on the Afghan reconciliation issue.
The Pakistani and Russian ministers in Moscow held in-depth talks on various bilateral and regional issues, including recent developments concerning the Afghan peace process.
It was underlined during the meeting that “being the most important stakeholders”, Pakistan and Russia have shared interests and concerns in Afghanistan. They also have a common goal of supporting all efforts to restore peace and stability to the country.
The Russian foreign minister “acknowledged” Pakistan’s efforts to achieve a political settlement in Afghanistan and offered his country’s support to bring stability in the region, according to a press release issued by the Foreign Office.
The two sides “agreed to continue efforts, including through Moscow Format of Consultations, for supporting reconciliation under an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process”, the statement said.
Both Russia and Pakistan have been actively trying to revive the peace process in war-torn Afghanistan.
In order to kickstart direct negotiations between the Afghan Taliban and the Afghan government, Moscow had last month hosted peace talks that were attended by delegations of the Taliban, the Afghan government and global stakeholders. A Pakistani delegation had also attended the peace talks.
In the first two days of his three-day trip, the foreign minister visited Kabul, Tehran and Beijing, where he met his counterparts and other high-ranking officials. He discussed regional peace and stability and matters of mutual interest with the neighbors.
In Beijing, the US decision to pull nearly half of its troops from restive Afghanistan was high on the agenda. China has not announced an official stance on the US troop pullout, but Pakistan on Saturday welcomed the decision to slash US troop numbers calling it “a step towards peace” in war-torn Afghanistan.
In recent months, China has played a more active role in brokering peace in the region as stability in Afghanistan is critical to its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) of expanding trade links across Asia and Central Asia.
The Pakistan-China Economic Corridor is flagship of the BRI. Afghanistan could benefit from it the most if peace is served first in the landlocked resource-rich war-torn country.