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Pakistan FM meets Taliban government in Kabul

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Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi met senior Taliban leaders in the Afghan capital Kabul on Tuesday, as the neighbours sought to resolve disputes over border closures.

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.

The Taliban overthrew Afghanistan’s former US-backed government in August and have since been trying to win international recognition and financial support for their Islamist regime. But there has also been friction between the neighbours in the first months of the new Afghan government, notably over air links and control of freight crossing the border.

Lorry loads of Afghan fruit destined for sale in Pakistan and India were left to rot at the border in Spin Boldak in recent weeks, after Pakistan halted traffic.

And flights between Kabul and Islamabad have been disrupted by disputes over civil aviation regulation.

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

In the same clip distributed to media, Qureshi’s Afghan counterpart, Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, called it a “very good interaction” during which trade and reopening the borders was discussed.

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

Qureshi was also accompanied by Pakistan’s outgoing spy chief, Faiz Hammed, who is on his second visit to the Afghan capital since the Taliban took power.

Pakistan has long faced US allegations that its intelligence service supported the Islamist insurgents in their two-decade battle against NATO forces and the now deposed Western-backed government.

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

On Wednesday, the Russian government hosted a high-level Taliban delegation and officials from 10 countries, including China and Pakistan.

The hosts pushed the militants for action against extremist Islamic State fighters which it says have massed in perennially volatile Afghanistan.

In return, the Taliban — which is facing economic and humanitarian crises within its borders — urged the international community to recognise their interim government.

“Isolation of Afghanistan is not in the interest of any sides. And this has been proven in the past,” the Taliban Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Salam Hanafi told the Moscow conference.

“Therefore, we call on the international community to recognise the current government of Afghanistan.”

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