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Russian foreign minister visits Pakistan in search of Afghan peace

Reuters

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Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov (pictured), met his Pakistani counterpart in Islamabad on Wednesday (7 April) for talks on a troubled peace process in Afghanistan, where both countries have long histories of involvement, writes Charlotte Greenfield.

It was the first time a Russian foreign minister had visited Pakistan in nine years and comes at a sensitive time for Afghanistan with peace talks making little headway and a deadline looming for the United States to withdraw its forces.

“(Pakistan and Russia) share convergent positions on several issues ... including peace and stability in Afghanistan,” Pakistan’s foreign minister, Shah Mahmoud Qureshi, said on Twitter after their meeting.

The two ministers also discussed economic relations, energy and counter-terrorism cooperation, and progress on a major gas pipeline project.

Lavrov was also due to meet Prime Minister Imran Khan, the Pakistan foreign ministry said in a statement.

In the 1980s, Pakistan and the United States were the main supporters of the Islamist fighters who battled occupying Soviet forces.

Now, Russia is concerned about Afghan instability spilling over into central Asia as the United States seeks to extricate itself from a war in Afghanistan against the Islamist Taliban, who Pakistan has for years been accused of supporting.

Pakistan denies that.

Russia hosted an international conference on Afghanistan in Moscow last month at which the participants, including the United States, China and Pakistan, issued a statement calling on the warring Afghan sides to reach a peace deal and curb violence.

“A common concern is the situation in Afghanistan,” Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Wednesday on Lavrov’s visit to Pakistan.

“We look forward to an early finding of a constructive solution in order to end the civil war in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan through agreements on the formation of an inclusive government with the participation of the Taliban movement.”

The United States signed an agreement with the Taliban last year allowing it to withdraw its forces in exchange for a Taliban guarantee to prevent international terrorism.

But fighting between the US-backed Afghan government and the Taliban still rages.

The United States is pushing for an interim Afghan government between the two sides as a May 1 deadline approaches for it to withdraw its forces under the pact.

President Joe Biden has said that date will be hard to meet despite Taliban threats of more violence if it is not.

Afghanistan

Ukraine and Afghanistan in spotlight as Blinken Visits Brussels

EU Reporter Correspondent

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (pictured) headed to Brussels today (13 April) to meet with European and NATO allies on a range of issues, including Russia’s buildup of forces along the border with Ukraine and coalition operations in Afghanistan.

The visit comes three weeks after Blinken was in Brussels for a summit with his counterparts from NATO member states. Blinken spoke of the priority for the United States to focus on strengthening ties with allies during the previous meeting.

“Glad to be heading back to Brussels. The United States is committed to rebuilding U.S. alliances, particularly with our NATO Allies,” Blinken tweeted on Monday (12 April). “We remain steadfast in our support for NATO as the essential forum for Transatlantic security.”

Blinken’s schedule for today includes talks with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

Russia’s recent movement of troops to the border area has raised concerns in the United States and elsewhere.

Blinken spoke with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg about the situation Monday and said there was mutual agreement that “Russia must end its dangerous military buildup and ongoing aggression along Ukraine’s borders.”

Philip Reeker, the US acting assistant secretary for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, told reporters in previewing Blinken’s meetings that NATO talks about Ukraine would bring calls for Russia to show restraint and refrain from “escalatory actions.”

Joining Blinken in Brussels is US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

Another major topic of discussion will be the situation in Afghanistan just weeks before a May 1 deadline set an agreement between the administration of former US President Donald Trump and the Taliban for the withdrawal of the remaining 2,500 U.S forces from the country.

Reeker said those talks would be an opportunity to follow up on discussions about Afghanistan from the ministerial meetings last month. Blinken said during the March talks that the United States wanted to “listen and consult” with NATO allies, while pledging to “leave together” when the time is right.

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Crisis Management Commissioner in Kabul: EU steps up humanitarian assistance with €32 million

EU Reporter Correspondent

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Crisis Management Commissioner Janez Lenarčič has concluded an official visit to Kabul, Afghanistan, as the country tries to move beyond one of the deadliest conflicts worldwide, lasting decades. The visit was the first of an EU humanitarian affairs Commissioner in several years and aimed to maintain EU support following 2020 Afghanistan Conference towards bringing peace to the country. During the visit, the Commissioner announced €32 million in humanitarian support to assist the civilians affected by the conflict for 2021.

Lenarčič said: “Whilst peace negotiations are ongoing, humanitarian aid can be the central way to reach more than half of the population in the country, some 19 million people. It is paramount that all parties to the conflict facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance and expand safe and unhindered access to the most vulnerable. Moreover the protection of civilians, of education facilities, of hospitals and humanitarian missions cannot wait till the end of the peace negotiations. For them to conclude successfully, respect of International Humanitarian Law to safeguard lives is an essential prerequisite for a lasting peace and sustainable future of the country.”

In Kabul, the commissioner met H.E. President Ashraf Ghani as well as Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation. Additionally, a meeting with Ramiz Alakbarov, Deputy SRSG/Humanitarian Coordinator took place, along with key UN partners such as WHO, WFP, UNICEF and international NGOs. The full press release is available here.

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EU reconfirms support for Afghanistan at 2020 Geneva Conference

EU Reporter Correspondent

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The European Union today (24 November) reconfirmed its long-standing solidarity and partnership with the people of Afghanistan, pledging support of €1.2 billion over the period 2021–2025 in both long-term and emergency assistance at the 2020 Afghanistan Conference 'Peace, Prosperity and Self-Reliance'.

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President Josep Borrell, speaking at the opening session of the conference, said: “With intra-Afghan peace negotiations having started, but terrible violence still causing great suffering for the Afghan people, Afghanistan is at a crossroads. The Afghan people can count on the European Union's support for a prosperous and peaceful future for their country, but our support relies on democracy, human rights, and social progress being protected.”

International Partnerships Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen, who announced the EU's pledge at the conference and participated in a side event on anti-corruption, said: “A pledge of €1.2 billion for the next four years illustrates our commitment to the Afghan people. Our assistance will support the Afghan authorities' agenda for democratic, sustainable development and modernization, helping to lift people out of poverty, improve governance, reduce corruption and enhance the daily lives of the Afghan people.”

Crisis Management Commissioner Janez Lenarčič, who co-hosted a side event on sustainable peace building, as well as a high-level meeting on international humanitarian law and the protection of civilians in Afghanistan ahead of the conference, said: “We are boosting our humanitarian aid to help those most in need. While it must never become a political instrument, humanitarian assistance, International Humanitarian Law and protection of civilians must be central in the ongoing Afghan Peace Process negotiations. The protection of civilian lives and respect of International Humanitarian Law in conflict cannot wait for the end of the peace negotiations. It must begin now.”

Significant but conditional support

The significant financial commitment demonstrates that the EU is unwavering in its determination to promote a peaceful, democratic, sovereign and prosperous Afghanistan, deserved and long awaited by its people, and makes clear that EU development assistance is based on clear conditions and principles.

These conditions are laid out in a paper co-authored by the EU and other key international partners of the country, which combined provide 80% of international assistance to Afghanistan. As reiterated by High Representative/Vice-President Borrell and Commissioner Urpilainen at the Conference, the EU's support to Afghanistan is conditional upon an inclusive, Afghan-owned, Afghan-led peace process that builds on the political and social achievements of the last 19 years. Preserving democratic pluralism, the constitutional order, institutional transparency and accountability, and the rule of law, further promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms, especially for women, children and minorities and including freedom of media, and pursuing sustainable peace, development and prosperity, are essential for Afghanistan's future.

Many of the principles for EU and international support are reflected in thJoint Political Communiqué and the Afghanistan Partnership Framework, which were adopted at the Conference.

The EU's development assistance is subject to adoption of the next EU Multiannual Financial Framework along the lines proposed by the European Commission on 2 June. This assistance will support implementation of the second Afghanistan National Peace and Development Framework covering the period of 2021-2025. The EU's support will also help to address growing poverty levels in Afghanistan in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Alongside development support, the EU will also continue to provide impartial, life-saving humanitarian assistance, boosting the coronavirus response as well as assisting victims of conflict and forced displacement, including with emergency food provision, protection services to address gender-based violence, the education of children, as well as advocacy for respect of International Humanitarian Law by all parties to the conflict.

Background

In 2016, the EU similarly pledged Afghanistan €1.2bn over a four-year period. Actual payments in 2016–2020 exceeded €1.75bn. In 2002–2020, the European Union has committed in total more than €5.1bn to Afghanistan. Afghanistan is the largest beneficiary of EU development assistance in the world. EU support aims to preserve the political and development achievements of the last 19 years and is guided by strong democratic and human rights principles.

The EU has been among the most generous humanitarian donors to Afghanistan. Total EU humanitarian assistance in the country since 1994 amounts to almost €1bn.

More information

Website of the Afghanistan Conference 2020

Speech of High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell at the Opening Session of the 2020 Afghanistan Conference

Intervention of Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen at the 2020 Afghanistan Conference

Joint Political Communiqué of the 2020 Afghanistan Conference

Afghanistan Partnership Framework 2020

Paper: Key elements for sustained international support to Peace and Development in Afghanistan

Side meeting: “Support to Peace and Prosperity through Public–Private Partnerships in Key Infrastructure Investments”

Webcast of high-level side meeting on International Humanitarian Law and Protection of Civilians in Afghanistan

Factsheet on EU – Afghanistan relations

Website of the European Union Delegation to Afghanistan

 

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