ISLAMABAD   -   Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi will not attend the Afghan peace conference in Geneva today (November 27) due to the November 28 opening of the Kartarpura corridor, officials said.

Senior officials at the foreign ministry told The Nation that Qureshi had originally planned to attend the two-day conference but changed his mind after Pakistan decided to open the border corridor to allow Indian Sikhs to visit their holy place without visa. The FM, the officials said, will join Prime Minister Imran Khan for the mega event.

The goal of the Geneva conference was to show the solidarity of the international community with the Afghan people and the government in their efforts for peace and prosperity, and for the Afghan government to renew its commitment to development and reform.

United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said: “This is a crucial moment for the government and international community to demonstrate progress and commitment, and maintain the momentum for elections and opportunities for peace.”

The UNAMA said the conference will also be an opportunity to emphasise the importance of the development and reform agenda and the need to advance it as a constructive contribution to peace and security.

“This particular conference will also be crucial in measuring results against the $15.2 billion committed by the international community for Afghanistan in 2016,” it said.

Pakistan will be represented by a high-level delegation in the Geneva conference, aiming to speed up the negotiation process between the Taliban and the US.

The conference will be attended by representatives from Pakistan, the US, Russia, China, and various European countries.

Pakistan and the US had recently started to come closer to work together for Afghanistan peace. However, mistrust hounded peace efforts. Pakistan released several Taliban leaders under the new peace plan. Taliban control nearly half of Afghanistan.

Afghanistan’s government, jointly headed by President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, has also been prickly about direct talks between Washington and the Taliban.

Meanwhile yesterday, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi met Italian Ambassador Stefano Pontecorovo and discussed a wide range of regional and bilateral issues of mutual interest and expressed satisfaction at the current state of relations.

“The foreign minister appreciated the longstanding Pakistan-Italy cooperation in various areas and emphasised the need to diversify and enhance collaboration in bilateral trade, defence and cultural spheres,” said a foreign ministry statement.

The foreign minister welcomed the signing of Memorandums of Understanding between Trade Development Authority of Pakistan and Italian Trade Promotion Agency ICE to enhance trade and establishment of four Centres of Excellence in Pakistan in the fields of marble and mining, leather and denim clothing.

“It was also agreed to augment cooperation in tourism and archaeological research sector, particularly through joint ventures to develop mutually identified tourism facilities,” said the statement.

It said the Italian ambassador assured full cooperation of his government in working with Pakistan to continue and enhance bilateral cooperation in all areas of common interest.

Foreign Minister Qureshi also met the former Norwegian Prime Minister KjellMagne Bondevik who is on a two-day visit to Pakistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

Bondevik briefed the foreign minister on his visit to India, in particular to Srinagar, where he had the opportunity to interact with Kashmiri groups representing various walks of life.

He said the Kashmir issue should be high on the agenda of the international community and its resolution should be a priority for all.

“More importantly, it should be noted that there was no military solution to this issue, peaceful and meaningful dialogue was the only way forward for Pakistan and India,” Bondevik was quoted as saying by the foreign ministry.

Foreign Minister Qureshi said that India had continued to ignore with impunity legitimate demands for a probe into gross and systematic human rights violations, including use of excessive force and pellet guns, arbitrary arrests and detentions, as well as use of sexual violence as a weapon.

“It is high time that the international community moves beyond rhetoric and takes meaningful steps in putting an immediate end to the gross and systematic human rights abuses in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir,” the FM said.

The foreign minister highlighted the United Nations Report on Jammu and Kashmir as well as the UK Parliament’s report on the region as evidence of international recognition of the severity of the problem.

He iterated that peace and justice was indispensable for the region and it can only be achieved with the resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, in accordance with the aspirations of the people.


FM to skip Afghan Geneva moot for

Kartarpura opening