Pakistani foreign minister meets Taliban in Afghanistan

Foreign minister’s first visit since the Taliban takeover comes as the neighbouring countries attempt to solve border issues affecting movement and trade.

Afghanistan's acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, right, welcomes Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in Kabul [Pakistan Foreign Office/AFP]

Pakistan’s foreign minister has visited Afghanistan for the first time since the Taliban takeover in August, amid continuing tensions about transport links between the neighbouring countries.

Shah Mahmood Qureshi travelled to Kabul on Thursday to discuss the situation at the Chaman border crossing, one of the main trade transit points between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The crossing has been closed for more than two weeks, causing severe problems for truckers and exporters.

Speaking outside the Afghan presidential palace after the meeting, Qureshi said the two sides held detailed talks on cross-border movement and trade, and that a Taliban delegation would visit Islamabad in the coming days to finalise the resolution of issues.

“There were detailed talks with the Afghan Taliban leadership which were attended by the prime minister and almost all cabinet ministers,” Qureshi said.

Qureshi was accompanied by Faiz Hammed, the outgoing chief of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), who is on his second visit to the Afghan capital since the Taliban took power.

Afghanistan’s acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, who stood alongside Qureshi, said a lot of progress had been made in solving the outstanding issues.

“We are very hopeful that all our trade issues will be resolved very soon, borders will open again,” he said.

The neighbouring countries had been unable in recent weeks to solve issues over air links and control of freight crossing the border.

Pakistan has suffered the repercussions of four decades of instability as armed groups along the 2,670km-long (1,659-mile) Pakistan-Afghanistan border flourished.

The closure of the border due to security concerns has hurt Afghan fruit producers near the southern city of Kandahar, with pomegranates and other export produce left to rot because trucks cannot get through to their markets across the border.

Pakistan International Airlines, the only international airline that had been operating regularly in Kabul, also suspended flights last week, complaining of interference and harassment of its staff by Taliban officials.

Qureshi is the third foreign minister after those of Qatar and Uzbekistan to visit Afghanistan since the Taliban took power.

The Taliban overthrew Afghanistan’s former US-backed government in August and have since been trying to win international recognition and financial support.

Pakistan, one of only three countries that recognised the previous Taliban regime in the 1990s, is seen as still wielding considerable influence over the group as it returns to power.

Islamabad has not formally recognised the government in Kabul but has been actively campaigning for international engagement with the Taliban in order to provide the country with humanitarian aid.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies