Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi says the current Afghan peace process is presented as a major opportunity, however, the terrorism and security situation in the region remains grave.
He was speaking to Pakistani media after his meeting with Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani.
Pakistan hosted the third round of the trilateral dialogue with the foreign ministers of China and Afghanistan in Islamabad on Saturday with the aim of improving political relations and ensuring peace in the region.
Wang and Rabbani arrived in Islamabad on Saturday and were received by Qureshi.
The foreign ministers discussed security cooperation and strategy to counter terrorism, as well as improve their connectivity.
The China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Foreign Ministers’ Dialogue was established in 2017 to cooperate on mutual interests with a particular focus on cooperation in economic development and peace and security. The first meeting was held in Beijing in 2017 and the second in Kabul in 2018.
The meetings provided an opportunity for the three countries to illustrate the joint efforts made by them to facilitate the Afghan peace and reconciliation process.
Qureshi started off Saturday’s press conference after a meeting among the three foreign ministers.
Addressing the Afghan foreign minister, he said, “I’d like to take advantage of your presence here, sir to reiterate our invitation to [Afghanistan] President Ashraf Ghani for the joint inauguration of the talks at Doha”.
He then told the Chinese minister that not only does Pakistan consider China a close friend, but a good neighbour and trusted partner. He said that with growing Chinese interest in regional connectivity, the entire region will benefit, including Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Qureshi told both leaders that he was looking forward to the progress of the Afghan peace process and hoped that the US-Taliban framework agreement moves to the next stage, which is the intra-Afghan negotiations.
This will ensure sustainable and durable peace in Afghanistan and the entire region, he said.
Qureshi confirmed that the next round of talks will be held in Beijing.
Before giving the stage to the two foreign ministers, Qureshi thanked them for coming to Pakistan. “Gentlemen, I have been delighted to have you here,” said Qureshi. He said Pakistan would love to have young diplomats from the two countries come to Islamabad.
Chinese foreign minister’s speech
The Chinese foreign minister started his speech with a note of thanks to Pakistan for its efforts in arranging the trilateral dialogue with China and Afghanistan. “It is my great pleasure to come to Pakistan for the third round of the trilateral talks,” he said.
Wang said the current Afghan peace process is presented as a major opportunity, however, the terrorism and security situation remains grave.
“Some disputes left from history have escalated and regional stability faces new challenges,” he said, adding that internationally, unilateralism and protectionism are on the rise, which undermines the legitimate right of interests of developing countries, including China, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
At such a critical time, he said, it is highly relevant and necessary for the three ministers of the three countries to hold this dialogue. He said the three leaders had spoken in depth and reached broad consensus, which he said he would like to summarise in five points.
“Firstly, although it hasn’t been long since the trilateral cooperation started, it has resulted in positive outcomes in promoting solidarity and cooperation among the three parties in advancing the political reconciliation in Afghanistan, in enhancing regional connectivity and in promoting common development of the region,” he said, adding that as a new type of practice for sub-regional cooperation, this trilateral cooperation responds to the keen interests of the people in this region for peace and development. He called it an “equal, open, practical and effective” dialogue which is showing strong vitality.
His second point focused on the situation in Afghanistan, which he said was at a critical stage. “The withdrawal of foreign troops needs to be conducted in an orderly and responsible manner to ensure a smooth transition,” opined the Chinese foreign minister, adding that China and Pakistan look forward to reconciliation between the Afghan government and the Taliban through peaceful negotiation. He said a solution needs to be found which is acceptable to all parties involved.
Speaking about the improvement of relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan, he said it is of great significance for peace, stability and development in both countries and the wider region. “Since the inception of the trilateral dialogue, Afghanistan and Pakistan have formulated an action plan for solidarity which identifies the framework and direction for the improvement of bilateral relations,” he said, adding that China appreciates the sense of political responsibility and courage displayed by the leaders of both countries and stands ready to continue to support and help them in pursuing dialogue.
In his fourth point, Wang said China believes trilateral cooperation needs to be advanced under the Belt and Road initiative. “The three parties stand ready to strengthen connectivity cooperation, including the extension of CPEC projects to Afghanistan,” he said adding that China was also ready to cooperate with international partners to build the Kabul-Peshawar motorway.
He announced agreement on a livelihood cooperation among the three countries, which includes projects on drinking water, medical stations, entry and exit facilities at the border ports between Afghanistan and Pakistan. An extension in people-to-people and cultural exchanges was also announced by Wang.
Wang’s last point was on China’s view that ties needed to be further deepened cooperation on counter-terrorism and security. He said that an MoU on counter-terrorism was signed during the last trilateral dialogue. “We have further agreed on a list of projects under that MoU,” he announced, adding that the countries have decided to step up cooperation on counter-terrorism capacity building, narcotics and other areas.
An agreement has also been reached among the three parties on intelligence sharing and law enforcement cooperation, he said.