ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s prime minister on Tuesday urged foreign ministers from Muslim-majority nations to help end Russia’s war in Ukraine, appealing also to China’s top diplomat to join the effort.
Imran Khan spoke at the start of a two-day gathering in Islamabad of the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which for the first time saw the attendance of China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, as a special guest.
The war in Ukraine “could have great consequences for the world,” Khan warned and added that the rest of the planet is “already suffering,” with surging prices of oil, gas and wheat from a region known as the breadbasket of the world.
He urged the ministers to “mediate, try to bring about a cease-fire and an end to the conflict.”
Wang’s attendance underscored China’s increasing influence among OIC countries — as well as the Islamic organization’s readiness to overlook charges of widespread attacks by Chinese authorities on the country’s minority Muslim Uyghurs.
Khan, who has made fighting Islamophobia a top priority, has refused to condemn China over allegations of abuse against the Uyghurs. Pakistan has signed a multi-billion dollar road and energy project that will link its Arabian Sea port of Gwadar to China in the north.
In his speech at the conference, the Chinese foreign minister said China supports Russia and Ukraine continuing peace talks for the sake of a cease-fire, an end to the war and peace.
“We need to prevent humanitarian disasters and prevent the spillover of the Ukrainian crisis from affecting or harming the legitimate rights and interests of other regions and countries,” he said.
Wang said after the outbreak of coronavirus, Beijing provided 1.3 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines and a large amount of supplies to fight the virus to 50 Islamic countries.
Later, Wang met with Khan, according to a government statement.
It said the “two sides discussed the situation in Ukraine and reiterated the imperative need for an immediate cessation of hostilities and continued efforts for a solution through sustained dialogue and diplomacy.”
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi met separately with his Chinese counterpart, the ministry said. The two “discussed the situation in Ukraine and reiterated the need for a solution through sustained dialogue and diplomacy,” the ministry said.
Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Program at the U.S.-based Wilson Center, tweeted that it was “rather ironic” to see Wang at the conference. “It’s also a reminder of the high value that the OIC states place on their commercial relations with Beijing,” Kugelman said.
Khan also reiterated his plea for the international community to help neighboring Afghanistan, which has been struggling with an economic meltdown and severe shortages of food and medicines since the Taliban takeover in mid-August.
“A stable Afghanistan is the only way that we are going to tackle international terrorism from Afghan soil,” said Khan. “It is extremely important that we help the people of Afghanistan.”
At a meeting in December Pakistan tried to rally Muslim countries to reach out to Afghanistan’s new rulers as they transition from insurgency and war to governing. However, none of the OIC countries have officially recognized the Taliban government in Afghanistan. The international community is suspicious the Taliban could impose similarly harsh measures as when they were first in power in Afghanistan in the 1990s.
The Taliban did not send their top envoy, Amir Khan Muttaqi, to the meeting in Islamabad but a lower level Taliban official.
On Monday, Pakistan announced the establishment of a humanitarian trust fund for Afghanistan, which will be operated by the Islamic Development Bank and funded through donations from OIC member states, Islamic financial institutions, donors and international partners.
The money will be used for humanitarian aid for Afghanistan, where the United Nations says 95% of the population does not have enough to eat and poverty is soaring.
Associated Press writer Kathy Gannon in Kabul, Afghanistan, contributed to this report.