Britain wants to engage with Taliban

Foreign Secretary Raab promises cooperation on Red List issue: Thanks Pakistan for safely evacuating British nationals from Afghanistan

By: News Desk      Published: 03:24 PM, 3 Sep, 2021
Britain wants to engage with Taliban
TV grab.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Friday that the UK will not recognize the Taliban as the new government in Kabul but must deal with the new realities in Afghanistan and does not want to see the social and economic fabric of the country broken.

Addressing a joint news conference with his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi in Islamabad, Dominic Raab said it would not have been possible to evacuate some 15,000 people from Kabul without some degree of cooperation with the Taliban, who seized Kabul on August 15. "We do see the importance of being able to engage and having a direct line of communication," he said.

Reacting to the British foreign secretary’s visit, Foreign Minister Qureshi said that through such dialogues with the British government representatives, Pakistan upgrades its relations with the UK to a higher level. He said Pakistan had made "tremendous progress" on getting out of FATF's grey list. "We have taken legislative steps, administrative steps and further concrete measures are being taken," he said. 

Qureshi averred he discussed Pakistan's name on the UK's Red List with the visiting dignitary, adding that he told the British foreign secretary how people in Pakistan felt about it and "what needs to be done to take Pakistan's name off the Red List and into the Amber List."

The foreign minister said he is happy that a meeting has been arranged between Dr Faisal Sultan and British authorities on Monday in which he would suggest ways about how "both sides can be comfortable and overcome this challenge."

"On the whole, it was a frank and candid discussion. Thank you for coming," concluded the foreign minister. 

Raab said that the UK valued its historic relations with Pakistan, adding that he had a positive and constructive discussion with FM Qureshi. "We want to further strengthen our ties with Pakistan," he said. 

He thanked Pakistan for safely evacuating British citizens from Afghanistan, adding that the UK will continue to provide aid to Afghanistan on humanitarian grounds. "We will continue to help Afghanistan's neighbouring countries, including Pakistan," he vowed, adding "We want to see a prosperous Afghanistan."

Hoping the Taliban will bring stability and an end to violence in Afghanistan, the UK foreign secretary said it was premature to talk about recognising the Taliban at the moment. 

Speaking about Pakistan's inclusion in the Red List, Raab said Dr Faisal Sultan would hold a meeting with UK authorities to discuss the technical aspects of the case. "We will be able to take the decision on excluding Pakistan's name from the Red List on technical grounds," he said. 

Qureshi slams India

In response to a question, Qureshi said he had raised the issue of atrocities in Occupied Kashmir that are being committed by India. 

Qureshi said he discussed how Geelani was denied a "decent burial" by Indian security forces, adding that it was a violation of an individual's basic right. "There will be hundreds of funerals [for Geelani]. There is one taking place right here in Islamabad today. Every parliamentarian will go there. If you [UK foreign secretary] were not here, I would have gone myself," added Qureshi. 

He said it was not possible to suppress freedom of expression. The Pakistani foreign minister said he discussed the issue with Raab, who said the UK's position on Kashmir is a stated and known one. "However, he told me that it does not stop them from raising human rights issues.."

In response, Raab said that the UK has a longstanding policy of encouraging India and Pakistan both to pursue a solution to the Kashmir crisis. "It is not for the UK to impose its solution to the Kashmir crisis," he said, adding that London encouraged both Islamabad and New Delhi to hold concrete dialogue over the issue.

According to BBC, Pakistan, which shares a border with Afghanistan, is a key player in the crisis and already hosts about three million Afghan refugees. The British Foreign Office has already sent officials to help process those crossing the border. 

After talks with leaders in Qatar on Thursday, the British foreign secretary said evacuations may be able to resume from Kabul airport "in the near future". 

The Afghan capital's airport is out of action following the withdrawal of US troops last week.

And on Thursday evening he said he had spoken to Tajikistan foreign minister Sirojiddin Muhriddin about "how our countries can help maintain stability in the region, and tackle the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan".

Of the £30 million in aid offered to neighbouring countries, Mr Raab said £10 million would be made available immediately to humanitarian organisations in order to despatch supplies to Afghanistan's borders.

Countries predicted to experience a significant increase in refugees will also receive £20 million to help with processing new arrivals and to provide essential services and supplies.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has estimated a worst-case scenario of more than 500,000 refugees fleeing Afghanistan to Pakistan, Tajikistan, Iran, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan in the coming months.

Raab said: "It is vital that we help those fleeing Afghanistan and do not allow the crisis there to undermine regional stability."

He added that the aid showed the UK's "commitment to shoulder our humanitarian responsibility".

More than 17,000 people have been evacuated by the UK from Afghanistan so far, including more than 5,000 British nationals, Raab has said.

The last British plane flying people out of Kabul took off on Saturday, as the remaining foreign troops withdrew from the country.

It is feared thousands of people eligible for relocation, including Afghans who worked for the British and their families, have been left behind.