SAWT BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL

| 5 December 2021, Sunday |

Pakistan foreign minister makes first trip to Kabul since Taliban takeover

Following weeks of anxiety over transportation ties between the neighboring nations, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi paid his first visit to Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, on Thursday.

The visit follows the closure of the Chaman border crossing, one of the main trade transit points between Afghanistan and Pakistan, for more than two weeks, generating major challenges for trucks and exporters.

Qureshi stated that Pakistan was committed to assisting Afghanistan in preventing its economy from collapsing, and that the two countries had reached an agreement on steps to eliminate border restrictions and improve trade, including on-arrival visas for Afghan business travelers.

He told reporters, “We have taken initiatives that would aid Afghanistan financially.”

Fresh fruit and vegetables from Afghanistan would also be permitted duty-free imports, according to Qureshi, in an effort to aid Afghan fruit producers who have been harmed by the border closures.

Because trucks can’t get through to their markets across the border, farmers near Kandahar have been forced to leave pomegranates and other export produce to rot.

But there was no agreement to restart flights by Pakistan International Airlines, which suspended operations from Kabul last week after it accused Taliban officials of interference.

The airline has faced local anger after it raised the price of a one-way ticket to as much as $2,500, citing the cost of the premiums it was forced to pay for operating in what insurers consider a war zone.

Qureshi’s delegation on Thursday included the head of the ISI intelligence service, Faiz Hameed, who had also visited Kabul in the immediate aftermath of the fall of the city.

Before the meeting, Pakistan’s foreign ministry said in a statement that Qureshi would focus in his talks with Muttaqi and other Taliban leaders “on ways and means to deepen cooperation in diverse areas”.