18:46 GMT29 September 2020
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    MOSCOW (Sputnik), Valentina Shvartsman - Pakistan has warned fellow members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) about "spoilers" that seek to undermine the Afghan peace process from both within and outside the country, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said in an exclusive interview with Sputnik.

    On Thursday, Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem Wardak confirmed via Twitter that long-awaited negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government are set to begin in Qatar on 12 September.

    "We do recognize and we are cognizant of the fact that there are spoilers. And I warned my colleagues [on Thursday] that beware of those spoilers from inside and outside," Qureshi said after the meeting of the SCO foreign ministers.

    He noted that those "spoilers" did not want peace to return to Afghanistan.

    "They do not want peace to return to Afghanistan. And Pakistan and many other regional countries feel that Afghans deserve stability, they desire peace, they desire economic prosperity. It will only come if there is peace," Qureshi stressed.

    He added that Islamabad wishes success to the upcoming intra-Afghan talks in Doha and believes that peace there would not only have a direct impact on Pakistan itself but also unlock unprecedented trade and economic opportunities for the whole region.

    "We wish them success because we are interested in a peaceful and stable Afghanistan. If things improve in Afghanistan, they'll have a direct positive impact for Pakistan. When things deteriorate there, we get affected," Qureshi said after the meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization's foreign ministers.
    Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the leader of the Taliban delegation, and Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. envoy for peace in Afghanistan, shake hands after signing an agreement at a ceremony between members of Afghanistan's Taliban and the U.S. in Doha, Qatar February 29, 2020.
    © REUTERS / Ibrahem Alomari
    Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the leader of the Taliban delegation, and Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. envoy for peace in Afghanistan, shake hands after signing an agreement at a ceremony between members of Afghanistan's Taliban and the U.S. in Doha, Qatar February 29, 2020.

    The diplomat underlined that both Pakistan and Afghanistan had paid a heavy price and lost many economic opportunities because of terrorism and insecurity in the region, noting that Pakistan would continue to play a constructive role and try to facilitate the entire peace process.

    Qureshi added that improvements in Afghanistan would considerably boost opportunities for cooperation both between Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as within the region.

    "If things stabilize in Afghanistan — Russia has contributed to that — then look at the opportunities that open up for the entire region: CASA-1000 [Central Asia-South Asia power project] becomes a reality; the TAPI [Turkmenistan–Afghanistan–Pakistan–India] gas pipeline becomes a reality; people-to-people contact increases; road connectivity improves. Just imagine if the Quadrilateral Traffic in Transit Agreement was implemented in true letter and spirit, look at the amount of trade it will promote," the minister stressed.

    He noted, however, that Afghans themselves should decide on the future of their country.

    "It's up to the Afghans. It's their future. They have to decide what kind of political dispensation they want. They have to sit and bridge the trust deficit. They have to build an understanding. After all, sides that will be sitting across the table are Afghans," he added

    Russia's Role in Afghan Peace Talks

    Russia's regional influence has increased due to its constructive approach to the Afghan peace talks, and the role of Moscow in this process will remain crucial, Qureshi said.

    "Russia is an important regional player for Pakistan. We feel Russia's importance has grown because of its very constructive approach it has adopted towards peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. One is appreciative of that, the Russian role in that," Qureshi said after his meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow.

    The minister noted that Russia had set up multilateral talks on the Afghan settlement, dubbed the Moscow format, and Pakistan had participated in it multiple times.

    "So Russian role has been there and it will remain there because of Russia's importance globally and within the region," Qureshi noted.

    Read the full version of the interview at our website at 7:00 GMT on Monday.

    Tags:
    Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), Pakistan, Afghanistan
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