Qureshi, Iraqi counterpart concerned over Afghan violence

Staff Reporter

Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein on Wednesday said the situation in Afghanistan was a cause for concern due to the use of violence to resolve the conflict.

The Iraqi foreign minister arrived in Islamabad earlier Wednesday for a two-day visit at Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s invitation.

The two leaders held delegation-level talks on a wide range of matters of bilateral, regional and international importance.

Speaking at a joint press conference after the talks, FM Hussein said the two foreign ministers had discussed the Afghan issue and were worried about the situation in the war-torn country.

“We are worried about the situation in Afghanistan because we see signals of using violence to solve the problem.

The peace process and meetings are continuing and we hope that the solution will be through the peace process and negotiation between the various political parties in Afghanistan.

“At the end, Afghanistan needs peace. Peace in Afghanistan will affect the neighbouring countries as well but violence in Afghanistan affects all of us,” the Iraqi foreign minister said.

He acknowledged that Pakistan was playing an important role in the matter, adding that he was confident “Pakistan wants to have peace in Afghanistan and believes in the various political groups coming together and working together to be partners.”

Meanwhile, when asked to identify the elements behind a recent anti-Pakistan campaign on social media vis-à-vis Afghanistan, FM Qureshi reiterated that Pakistan was consistently advocating a reduction in violence and continuously supporting the peace process.

“We have done everything possible to facilitate a peaceful and stable Afghanistan and will continue to do that despite the negative statements emanating from some quarters within Afghanistan.

It needs to be understood why they are doing that. “If you look at some of the social media trends, we have gone into it in greater detail and come to the conclusion that the bulk of it is orchestrated.

It is not a natural trend — it is a bot-controlled trend — and it is part of a smear campaign to divert attention from internal challenges that Afghanistan is going through,” Qureshi said.

He said Pakistan sympathised with Afghanistan and would support it but would not shy away from saying “what we believe in because of our clear approach”.

“We are sincere in the peace process and we will not be apologetic because we have done whatever we could and will continue to do what we can for peace, stability and regional connec-tivity.”

Qureshi said the incumbent government’s economic security paradigm and shift from geopolitics to geo-economics required peace, hence why “we are advocates of peace”.

“We have never advocated use of force and we have never shown inclination towards a particular group. We have no favourites,” he stressed.

Qureshi said he had also briefed his Iraqi counterpart on the situation in Indian-occupied Kashmir, particularly the “state terrorism Kashmiris are facing and the gross human rights vio-lations they are suffering”.

FM Hussein hoped that the Kashmir issue would be solved between Pakistan and India. “Iraq has an excellent relationship with both countries and we believe in solving problems only through dialogue and [in a] peaceful way so we hope both countries will start negotiation on this issue which has a long history,” he said.

Regarding other aspects of their discussion, Qureshi said Pakistan and Iraq had a relationship rooted in common faith, history and shared aspirations, adding that he had realised the goodwill that Iraq held for Pakistan during his trip to the country in May.

He lamented, however, that there was a lack of engagement due to the countries’ individual problems but “we have reconnected with a lot of zeal to promote our bilateral relations in the days ahead and convert this excellent political relationship into a more meaningful regional and economic partnership.”

Qureshi said the two foreign ministers had agreed to convene an early meeting of the Joint Ministerial Commission’s ninth session.

The Iraqi FM expressed similar sentiments and stressed the need to increase the trade relationship between the two countries, noting that it was not at the desired level.
He also thanked Pakistan for training Iraqi officers and diplomats.

The two had earlier signed a memorandum of understanding on holding bilateral political con-sultations.

Qureshi said the MoU would establish a mechanism for regular consultation on issues of mutual interest to Iraq and Pakistan “so that we synchronise our positions and have a more coordinated position at international forums”.

Qureshi said the two had discussed the issue of Pakistani Zaireen visiting holy sites in Iraq during their delegation-level talks, particularly facilitation of visas during Muharram and the annual Arbaeen commemoration.

“We have announced a new Zaireen management policy and we will require their [Iraq government’s] support and cooperation in its implementation,” Qureshi said.

He said there were plans to facilitate pilgrims visiting Iraq with a Pakistan House in Karbala, consulates in the city and Najaf along with a medical centre.

FM Hussein said he would discuss the issue with Iraq’s interior minister upon his return to make it easier for Pakistani pilgrims to visit holy places in Iraq.

“We are going to work on that. We are going to solve that problem. Zaireens from Pakistan are welcome in Iraq and this is in the mutual interest of both people to build a different kind of relationship between both countries and societies,” he said.

The Iraqi foreign minister addressed other regional issues and affirmed the right of self-determination for Pales-tinians, adding that Iraq would support any decision by the Palestinian leadership.

He also said Iraq’s efforts were aimed at bring its neighbours together and focused on issues such as the Yemen conflict.

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