Pakistan embassy in Kabul closes visa section amid tensions

Pakistan’s embassy in Kabul said Sunday it was indefinitely closing its consular office in the Afghan capital due to security reasons. (File/AFP)
Updated 03 November 2019

Pakistan embassy in Kabul closes visa section amid tensions

  • Closure of the visa section will come as a huge blow for many Afghans, hundreds of whom apply daily for permits to travel to Pakistan
  • Many Afghans seek medical treatment, goods and university educations in Pakistan

KABUL: Pakistan’s embassy in Kabul said Sunday it was indefinitely closing its consular office in the Afghan capital due to security reasons, amid mounting tensions between the neighboring countries.
Closure of the visa section will come as a huge blow for many Afghans, hundreds of whom apply daily for permits to travel to Pakistan where they seek medical treatment, goods and university educations.
A message shared on WhatsApp by an embassy spokesman said the consular section would be closed as of Monday “until further intimation.”
The spokesman told AFP that the consular section typically processes about 1,500 visa applications a day.
In Islamabad, Pakistan’s foreign ministry said the Afghan charge d’affaires had been summoned to “convey serious concerns over the safety and security of the diplomatic personnel of the embassy of Pakistan, Kabul, and its sub-missions.”
In a statement, the ministry said embassy staff were being harassed.
“They were obstructed on the road and the embassy vehicles were also hit by motorcycles while going toward the embassy,” the statement read.
Protests outside the Pakistani embassy are common, sometimes triggered by people unhappy about visa wait times or security while standing in long queues.
Relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan, both Islamic republics, have long been fraught, with Afghans blaming Islamabad for any number of woes including allegedly supporting the Taliban.
Pakistan denies it helps the insurgent group.
Tensions have soured further in recent days amid clashes along the border in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Kunar.
Both sides have accused each other’s troops of cross-border shelling.
The Pakistani foreign ministry has said six Pakistani troops were wounded October 27 and 28 in “unprovoked mortar and heavy weapon firing” by Afghan soldiers.
Pakistani consular services remain open in Herat, Jalalabad and Mazar-i-Sharif, according to the embassy spokesman, who recommended that applicants travel to Jalalabad if they needed a visa urgently.

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Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov to meet with Mike Pompeo next week

Updated 5 min 12 sec ago

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov to meet with Mike Pompeo next week

  • Pompeo and Lavrov would discuss arms control, the situations in Ukraine and Syria and other issues related to tense US-Russia relations: unnamed officials
  • Pompeo and Lavrov have met several times in the past year, including in New York and in Russia

WASHINGTON: Russia’s foreign minister will visit Washington next week for talks with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, US officials said Friday.
Pompeo will host Sergey Lavrov on Tuesday for talks that are expected to be followed by a joint news conference, two officials said. It was not immediately clear if Lavrov planned other meetings during the trip, which was first speculated about in Russian media Thursday. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the planned meeting.
The officials said Pompeo and Lavrov would discuss arms control, the situations in Ukraine and Syria and other issues related to tense US-Russia relations. But the trip is likely to be overshadowed by Ukraine-related impeachment proceedings that are picking up steam in the House, as well as the release Monday of the Justice Department inspector general’s report into the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Lawmakers are expected to soon draft articles of impeachment that allege Trump abused his power by withholding military aid to Ukraine unless its new leader pledged to investigate the son of his political rival Joe Biden.
Although the impeachment inquiry centers on Ukraine, which is fighting Russian-backed separatists in its east, Russia has been a major topic in the proceedings. Numerous witnesses have told investigators that Trump’s defenders are echoing a Russian disinformation campaign by accusing Ukraine of meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Trump and his supporters have repeatedly called for investigations into alleged Ukrainian interference in the election despite the intelligence community’s conclusion that Moscow was behind it.
Pompeo and Lavrov have met several times in the past year, including in New York and in Russia. They have spoken by phone infrequently but have not held face-to-face talks in Washington.
Pompeo was not secretary of state the last time Lavrov was in Washington, when the Russian diplomat visited the White House with the former Russian ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak, and had a meeting with Trump in May 2017. That meeting occurred a day after Trump had fired then-FBI director James Comey, a move that led to the investigation into Russian meddling in the election by special counsel Robert Mueller.