Pakistan, Afghanistan pledge coordination on border crossings
Both sides reaffirm commitment to longstanding regional connectivity programmes and a natural gas pipeline project.
Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistan and Afghanistan will form a new coordination mechanism to resolve issues at border crossing points, the two governments have said in separate statements following the conclusion of a visit by Pakistan’s national security adviser to Kabul.
Pakistani NSA Moeed Yusuf concluded his visit to Kabul – aimed at discussing economic engagement and ways to address the humanitarian crisis in Pakistan’s northwestern neighbour – on Sunday, a Pakistani statement said.
Yusuf met with senior Afghan Taliban officials, including Acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, acting Deputy Prime Minister Abdus Salam Hanafi and others during his two-day visit, a Pakistani statement said. He was accompanied by Pakistan’s special envoy to Afghanistan Muhammad Sadiq and other senior Pakistani officials.
“The visit yielded substantive outcomes in terms of forward movement on trade facilitation and social sector support,” said the Pakistani statement.
“Both sides agreed to establish a National Level Coordination Mechanism for enhancing facilitation at Border Crossing Points. They also agreed to initiate barter trade, modalities for which will be worked out immediately.”
Afghan Taliban foreign ministry spokesperson Abdul Qahar Balkhi said both sides having an economic focus was “positive progress”.
“Muttaqi said we have opened a transit route between [through Afghanistan to] Uzbekistan, Tajikistan [and] Turkmenistan for trade [and] expect you to provide facilities for our traders,” said Balkhi.
On January 18, Pakistani Commerce Minister Abdul Razak Dawood told Al Jazeera the two sides were “quite close” to signing transit trade and trucking agreements that would facilitate Pakistani access to Central Asian markets.
Both sides also reaffirmed their commitment to longstanding regional connectivity projects, including the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) natural gas pipeline project, both governments said.
Since the Afghan Taliban took control of the country, Pakistan has led the calls for international engagement with the country in order to stave off a humanitarian crisis and to allow the functioning of the Afghan government under the armed group.
In recent months, however, two points of tension have emerged as the Afghan Taliban objected to the fencing of the international border – which Afghanistan does not officially recognise – between the two countries.
Last week, Pakistan’s Yusuf dismissed altercations between Afghan Taliban commanders and Pakistani military border fencing teams as “local-level issues”.
The Afghan Taliban’s takeover has also seen an uptick in attacks by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, a major ally of the armed group, targeting Pakistani security forces in that country’s northwest.
Neither government statement on Yusuf’s meetings mentioned the border fence or specific security issues.