Jaishankar meets Afghan Prez, US Dy NSA in Tashkent; discusses situation in Afghanistan

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New Delhi, Jul 15 (PTI) External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Thursday met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Tashkent and discussed the fast-evolving situation in Afghanistan in the face of the Taliban making rapid advances across the country following the pullout of US forces.

On the sidelines of a multilateral conference in the Uzbek capital, Jaishankar also held talks with US Deputy National Security Advisor Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall and US Special Representative for Afghan peace process Zalmay Khalilzad, focusing on the developments in Afghanistan.

After the meeting with Ghani, Jaishankar said he reiterated India's support for peace, stability and development of Afghanistan.

'Pleased to call on President @ashrafghani. Discussed the current situation in and around Afghanistan. Reiterated our support for peace, stability and development of Afghanistan,' the external affairs minister tweeted.

Ghani's office said that Jaishankar conveyed to him that India would continue its humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan and provide it 150,000 tonnes of wheat.

The external affairs minister also said that India would continue to work to strengthen the regional consensus to support Afghanistan.

On his meeting with the US officials, Jaishankar said views on the evolving situation in Afghanistan were exchanged.

'Pleased to meet Dy NSA Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall @LSRTweets and US Spl Representative Zalmay Khalilzad @US4AfghanPeace. Exchanged views on the evolving situation in Afghanistan,' he tweeted.

The multilateral conference on connectivity in Tashkent is being attended by top leaders of several countries of the region including Ghani and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan. Besides connectivity issues, the conference is expected to also deliberate on the situation in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan witnessed a series of terror attacks in the last few weeks as the US withdrew the majority of its troops from the country and aimed to complete the drawdown by August 31, ending nearly two-decade of its military presence in the country.

The Taliban was evicted from power by the US-led forces in 2001. Now, as the US is pulling back its troops, the Taliban fighters are attempting to gain control of various parts of the country.

Jaishankar travelled to Tashkent after a two-day visit to Tajikistan's capital Dushanbe where he attended a crucial meeting of the foreign ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

The foreign ministers of the SCO countries extensively deliberated on the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan.

In a joint statement, the SCO foreign ministers said that the activities of terrorist outfits remained a key factor of instability in the country and called on all concerned parties to refrain from actions that could lead to unpredictable consequences.

The SCO also reaffirmed its position that there is no alternative to settling the conflict in Afghanistan through political dialogue and pitched for an inclusive Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.

The SCO foreign ministers also condemned the ongoing violence and terrorist attacks in Afghanistan and particularly expressed concern over the increasing concentration of various terrorist, separatist and extremist groups in the northern provinces of the country.

In his remarks at the SCO meeting on Wednesday, Jaishankar said that the future of Afghanistan cannot be its past and the World is against seizure of power by violence and force.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Afghan Foreign Minister Mohammad Hanif Atmar were among those who participated at the meeting.

In Tashkent, Jaishankar also held talks with his Bangladeshi counterpart A K Abdul Momen and foreign minister of Kazakhstan Mukhtar Tileuberdi.

'Happy to meet with Bangladesh FM Dr AK Abdul Momen on the sidelines of the Tashkent Connectivity Conference. A good opportunity to review the progress in our ties, including its connectivity aspects,' Jaishankar tweeted. PTI MPB ZMN

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