Afghanistan on agenda as British foreign secretary arrives in Pakistan for two-day visit

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab arrived in Pakistan on Thursday for a two-day visit during which he will discuss the situation in Afghanistan and bilateral relations with senior officials.

Raab was welcomed by foreign ministry and British High Commission officials after he landed at Nur Khan Airbase.

In a statement, the Foreign Office said Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi would hold official talks with the visiting British dignitary, who is also scheduled to meet other leaders. The statement did not mention the leaders Raab would meet.

Pakistan and the United Kingdom have been closely engaged on the latest developments in Afghanistan, the FO said, noting that the leaders of the two countries had discussed the situation in the war-torn country several times in the last month.

Last month, Prime Minister Imran Khan had received a telephone call from his British counterpart Boris Johnson in which they exchanged views on Afghanistan. Johnson had agreed to remain in touch with Imran.

In the bilateral context, Prime Minister Imran had highlighted the extensive measures taken by Pakistan to contain Covid-19, and said relevant data had been shared with the UK and called for the removal of Pakistan from Britain’s ‘red’ travel list.

 

Prior to that, Qureshi and Raab had also discussed the Afghan situation twice.

“The visit will reinforce the current momentum in high-level exchanges between the two countries and help strengthen bilateral cooperation on a range of issues,” the Foreign Office said.

In recent days, Pakistan has been emphasising the need for close coordination of the international community for the restoration of peace in Afghanistan and has stepped up diplomatic efforts for the same.

Raab’s tour is the latest visit by a foreign official to Pakistan, following the Taliban’s lightning-fast takeover of Kabul.

A day earlier, Dutch Foreign Minister Sigrid Kaag arrived in the country to discuss the Afghan situation, while German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas had also visited last month.

Maas had met Qureshi and Prime Minister Imran during his visit.

Austrian FM calls Qureshi

In a separate development, Austria’s Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg, in a call with Qureshi, thanked Pakistan for its support in facilitating the transit of Austrian nationals and others from Afghanistan.

During the call, both leaders discussed the situation in Afghanistan. Qureshi, while sharing Pakistan’s stance, emphasised the importance of a peaceful and stable Afghanistan and urged an inclusive political settlement in the neighbouring country.

There was a historic opportunity for ending 40 years of conflict in Afghanistan, he said, adding that “engagement of the international community with positive messaging and constructive actions [is] much needed,” according to an FO statement.

Qureshi also called for efforts to stabilise the security situation in Afghanistan and preserving peace in order to prevent an exodus of Afghans from the country.

He also stressed the need for the international community to show solidarity with the Afghan people to address their humanitarian needs and support economic stability, the FO said.

“The two foreign ministers expressed satisfaction over the current level of bilateral engagement and pledged to further establish linkages and deepen cooperation between the two countries in all spheres of mutual interest including trade, economy, higher education, tourism and culture,” it added.

During the call, Qureshi invited his Austrian counterpart to visit Pakistan. Schallenberg accepted the invitation, the statement said.

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