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UK to increase aid budget for Afghanistan: Foreign secretary

After talks with Pakistani counterpart in Islamabad, Raab says they need to face up new reality in Afghanistan

Islam Uddin   | 03.09.2021
UK to increase aid budget for Afghanistan: Foreign secretary

ISLAMABAD

The UK foreign secretary on Friday announced to increase aid budget for Afghanistan and said his country will continue its humanitarian responsibilities.

Speaking at a news conference along with his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad, Dominic Raab said the UK will also support Afghanistan's neighbors.

He said the UK will shoulder “humanitarian responsibilities and we are going to increase our aid budget for Afghanistan this year to 286 million pounds ($395 million) as well.”

The UK's top diplomat also signaled that his country is ready to engage with the Taliban’s future government in Afghanistan.

“We don't recognize the Taliban as a government. But we do see the importance of being able to engage and have a direct line of communication,” he said, adding: "We need to face up the new reality in Afghanistan."

The British foreign secretary also thanked Pakistan for the support and facilitation provided to its nationals during the evacuation from Afghanistan.

“We evacuated 15,000 people, including our diplomats and British citizens, from Afghanistan," he added.

Raab arrived on his two-day-long visit to Islamabad on Thursday night to discuss bilateral ties and the situation in Afghanistan after the Taliban swept the country.

He also held delegation-level talks with Qureshi and discussed bilateral issues, including the UK traveling ban on Pakistan due to COVID-19.

On his part, Qureshi urged the UK and other countries to engage with Afghanistan and help them rebuild their country and bring lasting peace there.

Responding to a question on condition-based relations with the Taliban, Pakistan’s foreign minister said they have no other choices except to live as neighbors.

“When we determine conditions, we have to determine choices available. Some have the choice of getting up and leaving. We don't have that choice. We are neighbors. We have to coexist," Qureshi said.

“Geography ties us together. So, our approach has to be somewhat different,” he added.

Gray list, red list

While talking about the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global organization tasked to combat money laundering, Qureshi said he hoped the UK will support his country in getting out of the gray list.

“We had made tremendous progress, have taken legislative steps, administrative steps, and concrete steps to get out of the FATF gray list,” he said.

The two diplomats also spoke on the issue of Pakistan's inclusion in the COVID-19 red list. Raab said officials of the two countries will discuss this issue on Monday.

Pak-Afghan border situation

Raab said it is vital to help those fleeing Afghanistan and not allow the crisis there to undermine regional stability.

He also visited the Pak-Afghan border where Pakistani army official briefed him on the security arrangements and situation at the border.

In a tweet after his visit, Raab said: “Good to see situation on the ground and understand what’s happening at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Discussed safe passage for British Nationals, and those who have worked with UK in Afghanistan.”

The foreign secretary's visit is part of efforts to secure safe passage for Britons and others trying to leave Afghanistan.

Pakistan, which shares a border with Afghanistan, already hosts about three million Afghan refugees.

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