ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi will tour four countries, Qatar, Iran, UAE, and Turkey, as part of diplomatic outreach to boost bilateral cooperation and discuss the Afghan peace process.

The tours will start on April 18 from the United Arab Emirates where the foreign minister will meet his Emirati counterpart. Then he will travel to Iran, Qatar and finally reach Turkey where he will attend the UN conference on Afghanistan, sources familiar with the development said on Friday.

The foreign minister’s visit is likely aimed at evolving a consensus among key stakeholders of the Afghan peace process before the conference that would bring together delegates from several countries. The conference was to kick off in Istanbul on April 16 but had to be postponed after a lack of preparation and the Taliban’s refusal to join it.

In recent developments the Taliban have refused to attend any forum for negotiations after US President Joe Biden extended the deadline for troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. The Biden administration said all US forces would leave Afghanistan by September 11 instead of May 1, the deadline set in the Doha Agreement the US had signed with the Taliban on February 29.

Earlier this week the US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken spoke to Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa in a telephonic conversation and later the US acting ambassador also met the Army Chief in Islamabad.

In the UAE, the foreign minister will likely discuss other regional developments, including Pakistan-India relationship.

Recently, several reports confirmed that the UAE has been trying to mediate between Pakistan and India. It is said senior intelligence officials held talks in Dubai in January that led to the ceasefire agreement between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.

At a weekly news briefing when Foreign Office spokesperson Zahid Hafiz Chaudhri asked to comment on the reports of secret talks between Pakistan and India in Dubai, he avoided answering the question directly and instead said states always had ways and means to communicate with each other even during the times of war.

The spokesperson said Pakistan had never shied away from talks. It was India that vitiated the atmosphere, he added. The spokesperson maintained that the onus was on India to create an enabling environment for engagement between the two countries.

In response to queries from media on possible meeting between Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Minister of External Affairs of India, S Jaishankar, Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri, Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, “No such meeting is scheduled during Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s ongoing visit to the UAE”.


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