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I am very happy to welcome you in Brussels, Minister Mahmood Qureshi. Thank you for coming, warm welcome, to this building of the European Union.
Your visit is a very timely visit. We have a lot to discuss, both on our bilateral relations as well as with regard to Afghanistan and other regional developments, which are concerning for both of us.
We will talk about our ongoing cooperation based on the implementation of the Strategic Engagement Plan, and how we can enhance our joint work, especially on security issues.
We will, certainly, also discuss human rights – as every time we meet -, and related international conventions and legislations. These are integral parts of our GSP+ preferential trade regime – which is a key component of our bilateral relations.
But, certainly, Afghanistan will be very much at the centre of our talks. I am looking forward very much to discuss with you, Minister, the humanitarian situation, which is really dire – you know it better than I do, because you are a close neighbour - and the country is on the brink of socio-economic collapse. We have to look at how we can avoid this collapse that would jeopardise all of us, especially and first of all, the neighbouring countries.
Finally, we need to work together to avoid that the socio-economic situation worsens any further, to support regional stability and guarantee the protection and respect of the Afghan people, their rights and dignity.
So, we are going to have a busy agenda, but, once again, it is a pleasure to meet you here, Minister. Thank you for your visit.
Q. Pakistan has been advocating Taliban regime recognition for the sake of stability in Afghanistan, but you have always put forward you 5 benchmarks. You should be knowing by now that the Taliban will not comply with your benchmarks. Is there any possibility to reach? consensus between Pakistan and the European Union?
The five benchmarks that the [EU] Foreign Affairs Ministers agreed in September - just after the fall of Kabul - was a way of calibrating our engagement with the [de facto] Taliban government.
When we say that we are going to engage more or less, depending on what? Depending on the way these five benchmarks are going to be fulfilled. We knew from the beginning that they were not going to be fulfilled, all of them, immediately. But this constitutes, and will constitute, our way of calibrating how much we engage with the Taliban.
We will engage more according with the fulfilment of these conditions. If these conditions are not fulfilled, we will engage less, which does not mean that we are not going to support the Afghan people through humanitarian assistance. We are doing it, we will continue doing it, and increasingly. The President of the Commission [Ursula von der Leyen] announced €1 billion to support Afghan people through our humanitarian+ aid, which means that we are going to do something more than the pure humanitarian help, but without recognition of the Afghanistan government, the Taliban government. It will depend on the way they evolve on these five axes of behaviour in order to see how do we engage with them.
Q. The federalism system, they say this is the main solution in Afghanistan. Are you going to support this idea? The people of Afghanistan want that, because Pakistan is also a federal government and federal state, the people think that the solution is to change the system. Are you going to support the idea of the people of Afghanistan?
I think that I have to agree with the Minister. There are some priorities. The federal structure of the country is important, but in any case this is an internal issue. For us, what is important is to support the Afghan people, to provide them with humanitarian assistance, bring them food, medicines, support to the schools, support to the hospitals and, later, we will see.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-215232