Statement of Minister of Foreign Affairs Ms Sigrid Kaag in Islamabad

Good evening ladies and gentlemen,

Let me begin by thanking Minister Qureshi for making this meeting possible on such short notice.

Our two countries have longstanding ties, and excellent bilateral and economic relations. We have a history of cooperation on which we can rely in these times of crisis, such as these.

We have previously spoken on the phone to discuss the situation of Afghanistan, and given the seriousness of the circumstances, I am glad we could continue that conversation in person here in Islamabad.

First of all, I want to express my gratitude to Pakistan for the vital role it played in facilitating the evacuations from Afghanistan. Two weeks ago Prime Minister Mark Rutte already called Prime Minister Imran Khan to thank Pakistan for its efforts. I want to reiterate that appreciation today.

I also want to say that we will continue our efforts to bring to the Netherlands all those who are eligible, and that will do what we can for those who stay behind.

Much has happened in the past few weeks, and we are now coming to grips with the new situation.

We have to assess the implications for the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, as well as the effects on the wider region, including Pakistan.

The situation is clearly volatile, and there is much we don’t know yet. But I want to make it absolutely clear that the Netherlands will not abandon the Afghan people. That is why the Netherlands has contributed an extra 10 million euros to the Afghanistan Humanitarian Fund.

We are also ready to support Pakistan in the challenges it is facing with the influx of refugees. We will discuss this in extension in the EU Foreign Ministers Meeting on Friday as well, but I can already inform you that we are ready to pledge 1 million euros to support Pakistani organizations who are involved in the support of refugees

Looking towards the future, Minister Qureshi and I have discussed closer cooperation on refugees. On Friday, I will speak with other EU Member States about the importance of supporting the region in dealing with a possible refugee crisis.

Unfortunately we have not been able to bring all those we wanted to the Netherlands. Therefore we have discussed possibilities for cooperation on this.

PM Minister Qureshi promised that Pakistan would do its utmost to help us, among others by providing assistance on the ground through the Pakistani embassy in Kabul, which is still open; I am very grateful for this generous support.

An inclusive political agreement remains the best chance for a stable Afghanistan and for a sustainable future for all Afghan people, which is also vital for the stability in the region. Minister Qureshi and I have spoken about the important role Pakistan plays in this regard.

I have stressed the highly vulnerable position of religious and ethnic minorities, and Afghan women and girls. They need to have a voice in this. You cannot have an inclusive agreement that excludes a majority of the population.  

Their future is uncertain, but we have a common responsibility to do what we can for those who need us the most.

Thank you.