Guess what? The second quadrilateral meeting of Iran, Russia, China, and Pakistan on Afghanistan was held in Samarkand on the sidelines of the fourth meeting of Afghanistan’s neighbouring countries on Thursday. However, the most surprising thing of the event was the presence of Taliban’s foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, who had left for Uzbekistan Thursday morning as where the group had previously not been invited to the earlier three meetings of foreign ministers of neighbouring countries of Afghanistan.
- Delegations from Russia, China, Pakistan, and Iran, as well as Central Asian counterparts from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, are present at the event.
- Discussions are focussing on the fragile security, humanitarian and socio-economic environment in Afghanistan. Neighbours are particularly concerned about the serious security situation in northern and eastern Afghanistan.
- Participants plan to work towards increasing coordination of anti-terror efforts. Tajikistan will likely use the conference to push for a security belt around Afghanistan to reduce the threat of terrorist attacks spreading.
- Efforts to strengthen intelligence cooperation and Afghanistan’s counterterrorism capabilities are also being proposed.
- Foreign ministers Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Sergei Lavrov, Qin Gang and Hina Rabbani Khar Pakistan’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, were taking part in the meeting.
- Hafiz Zia Ahmad, Taliban’s Deputy Spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry, tweeted on Thursday that Muttaqi is expected to meet with the Foreign Ministers of Regional countries on the sidelines of the Samarkand meeting.
- Addressing reporters after the quadrilateral meeting, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said that he and his contemporaries discussed the existing concerns and various issues grappling Afghanistan.
- Among the topics discussed were the spread of terrorism in Afghanistan, crises caused by the US sanctions in place against the country, tough living conditions of Afghan people, and the influx of Afghan refugees to Iran and other neighbours, he said.
- Amir Abdollahian also stressed on the need for a fight against drug trafficking originating from Afghanistan and the responsibility of the ruling government of Taliban in that regard.
- He also criticized the acting Taliban government for ridding Afghan women and girls of the right to education and employment.
Back story: The first quadrilateral meeting was held on September 16, 2022, on the sidelines of the Shanghai Summit in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan.
- In that meeting, the foreign ministers of four countries supported the formation of an inclusive government with the participation of all ethnic groups in Afghanistan.
Zoom out: Meanwhile, even opponents of the Taliban are keenly looking forward to this meet in Samarkand. In fact, in an open letter to the foreign ministers of neighbouring Afghanistan and Russia, the former Afghan foreign minister said that intra-Afghan peace talks are the only way to reach a lasting political agreement for an independent, stable and peaceful Afghanistan.
- Hanif Atmar, the former government’s foreign minister, said that Afghanistan is complex and relevant crises are intensifying. The humanitarian catastrophe, which affects the majority of Afghans and causes widespread starvation and suffering, will worsen in the coming months, he said.
- He added that Afghanistan’s neighbours must come together to address the growing threat to common security, peace and stability.
- Apart from this, even the National Resistance Council for Salvation of Afghanistan has urged participants of Samarkand meeting to pressurise the Taliban.
- In an open letter, the Council has called the Taliban a global threat and urged regional countries to support Afghans to overthrow the Taliban. The National Resistance Council for Salvation of Afghanistan includes prominent political figures such as Atta Mohammad Noor, General Dostum, and Yunos Qanooni, who reside outside Afghanistan ever since the fall of the country to the Taliban in 2021.
- In its letter, the Council stressed that powerful countries of the region are optimistic about the Taliban. The Taliban opponents at the Salvation Council added that the presence of terrorist groups in Afghanistan has been destabilising Afghanistan and regional countries and said that “extremism and increasing violence in Pakistan is also rooted in the current situation in Afghanistan”.