Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Thursday met Acting Afghanistan Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi in Tashkent in the first high-level contact between the two neighboring countries since the change of government in Islamabad.
Bilawal is in Tashkent to attend the meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). This was the first meeting between Bilawal and Muttaqi. The foreign minister, in the past, was critical of the Afghan Taliban and their policies.
According to an official handout issued by the Foreign Office, Foreign Minister Bilawal reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to a stable and prosperous Afghanistan. He also stressed the need for further promoting contacts, humanitarian assistance and increasing trade between the two countries.
On the sidelines of the SCO meeting, the immediate neighbors and other key regional countries attended a conference on Afghanistan.
The Afghan Taliban will complete one year in power next month. Since they returned to power in August 2021, none of the countries have yet recognised their government though many countries have maintained contact with them, and a few have opened diplomatic missions in Kabul.
The lack of recognition stemmed from the international community’s concerns over the Taliban’s failure to fulfil commitments, including girls’ education and women’s rights.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Bilawal met China State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the sidelines of the Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM). The foreign ministers reviewed the progress in bilateral relations and discussed regional and international issues of mutual interest.
Referring to his meeting with the SCO secretary general in Islamabad, the foreign minister reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to the purposes and principles of the SCO and the ‘Shanghai Spirit’. He added that Pakistan and China had complete convergence on fully leveraging SCO as an important regional platform for development and connectivity.
Both sides reaffirmed their strong support for each other’s core interests and major concerns and commitment to deepening strategic communication, including that at the highest political level and practical cooperation.
Bilawal expressed satisfaction at the frequent high-level interactions between the two sides which was a hallmark of the bilateral relations. He underscored that his third meeting with State Councilor Yi in as many months reflected the importance attached by both sides to maintaining strategic communication, further deepening the Pakistan-China all-weather strategic cooperative partnership and advancing economic engagement for mutual benefit.
The foreign minister underscored that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor’s (CPEC) development had reached a new phase, with increasing emphasis on high-quality development of industry, agriculture, IT, and science and technology, while ensuring tangible socio-economic benefits for the people.
The two sides discussed the latest developments in Afghanistan. They agreed that peace and stability in Afghanistan was vital for regional development and prosperity. Both sides agreed that only a peaceful, stable and connected Afghanistan could act as a fulcrum for enhanced regional trade and connectivity.
The two foreign ministers also agreed to maintain close coordination.