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Dialogue calls for peaceful resolution of Afghan conflict

The key to resolving Afghanistan’s conflict lies in an “Afghan-led and Afghan-owned” solution with a government in Kabul, which is neutral, follows moderate policies and firmly fights against terrorism.

These were among the consensus reached at the fourth Beijing-led dialogue of the foreign ministers of China, Pakistan and Afghanistan held via video link on Thursday.

The three sides have stressed the importance of a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Afghanistan, calling on all parties in the country for an early declaration of a “comprehensive ceasefire and an end to the senseless violence”, in order to create the condition needed for negotiations between Kabul and the Taliban.

The foreign ministers agreed to strengthen efforts to combat the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), which Beijing insists is radicalising and spreading the idea of separatism among Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR).

The meeting was held in the backdrop of US troops leaving Afghanistan later this year and three foreign ministers discussed its potential fallout – especially on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects in the region and on XUAR, if at all.

China’s state councillor and foreign minister, Wang Yi said the security and stability of Afghanistan and the region are facing new challenges with the withdrawal of foreign troops. As a result, the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan has been affected and “armed conflicts and terrorist activities are becoming more frequent”.

“Under such circumstances, it is more necessary for the three countries to strengthen communication and cooperation to make the situation more conducive to the common interests of Afghanistan and other countries in the region,” Wang was quoted as saying by the Xinhua news agency on Friday.

Afghan foreign minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar and Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi attended the dialogue via video link.

The three agreed that the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan should be carried out in a responsible and orderly manner to prevent the deterioration of the security situation there and the return of terrorist forces.

The ministers stressed that the solution to the Afghan issue should fully reflect the principle of “Afghan-led and Afghan-owned”, support Afghanistan in becoming an “…independent, sovereign and neutral country, pursue a moderate Muslim policy, firmly fight against terrorism, and maintain friendly ties with other countries, especially neighbouring countries”.

In a joint statement on the meeting, the three foreign ministers said they support the international community, particularly the United Nations and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, in making positive contributions to advancing the peace and reconciliation process. They said that neighbouring countries, as the most direct stakeholders in relation to Afghanistan’s domestic situation, “should play a more important, constructive role in this regard”.

The trilateral dialogue was started in 2017 with Islamabad hosting the third round in 2019 during which the three sides “agreed on a list of initial projects of enhancing counter terrorism cooperation”.

The first and second meetings were held in Beijing and Kabul in 2017 and 2018 respectively.

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