ISLAMABAD, November 11: Pakistan held a meeting on Afghanistan with envoys from the United States, China and Russia on Thursday as the Pakistani foreign minister warned its neighbour was on the brink of economic collapse.
The grouping of countries, known as the “Troika Plus” met formally for the first time since the Taliban took over Afghanistan on August 15.
“The engagement with Afghanistan must not only continue but should be enhanced for multiple reasons,” Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said in opening remarks at the meeting in Islamabad.
“Nobody wishes to see a relapse into civil war, no one wants an economic collapse that will spur instability; everyone wants terrorist elements operating inside Afghanistan to be tackled effectively and we all want to prevent a new refugee crisis,” he said.
Humanitarian agencies are increasingly raising the alarm that Afghanistan is slipping into a dire humanitarian crisis as the economy slumps due to a stall in most aid and restrictions on the banking system put in place by international governments since the Taliban took over.
Pakistan has called on governments, including the United States, to allow development assistance to flow into Afghanistan to prevent collapse. It has also called on them to unfreeze the billions of dollars of assets that Afghanistan’s central bank has overseas.
“Today, Afghanistan stands at the brink of an economic collapse,” Qureshi said.
Pakistan has also discussed the idea of Afghanistan joining CPEC, its multi-billion dollar infrastructure project with China, which comes under the banner of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Thursday’s conference is the latest in a series of diplomatic meetings in the region.
Afghanistan’s Taliban-appointed acting foreign minister carried out a three-day visit to Islamabad to discuss trade and other ties this week, while neighbouring India held a conference for regional countries on Wednesday, though arch-rival Pakistan did not attend that meeting. (AP)