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Pakistani Foreign Minister Pledges To Expand Trade After Visit To Kabul

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi (left) is welcomed upon arriving in Kabul on October 21.

Pakistan's foreign minister has visited Kabul for the first time since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, pledging to help its neighbor avoid an economic collapse.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said after his October 21 talks with Taliban leaders that Pakistan will provide about $280 million in humanitarian assistance and work to expand trade with Afghanistan.

He said Pakistan will also try to resume flights with Kabul, after Pakistan International Airlines suspended operations from Kabul this month.

The visit comes as the Chaman border crossing, one of the main trade points between the neighbors, has been closed for more than two weeks, causing severe problems for farmers and businesses.

Qureshi said Pakistan would ease some border restrictions and facilitate trade, including opening border crossings for 24/7 trade. He said Pakistan will allow duty-free imports of fruits and vegetables as well as provide on-arrival visas for Afghan business travelers.

"We have taken steps that will benefit Afghanistan financially," he told reporters.

Before the meeting, the Pakistani Foreign Ministry said the two sides would "cover the entire spectrum of bilateral relations and focus on ways and means to deepen cooperation in diverse areas."

Qureshi's delegation also included the head of the ISI intelligence service, Faiz Hameed, who had also visited Kabul after the capital fell to the Taliban in August.

In the coming days, a Taliban delegation is expected to visit Islamabad for follow-up discussions.

With reporting by AP, Dawn, and Reuters