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First Pak-aided US-Taliban talks held in UAE

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ISLAMABAD: United States diplomats and Taliban representatives met in the United Arab Emirates for talks facilitated by Pakistan on finding a negotiated settlement of the war in Afghanistan.

The meeting in Abu Dhabi was also attended by officials from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

There were no statements from the participating parties at the end of the daylong meeting, although Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal officially announced the start of the talks through a tweet.

 

“Talks are being held in UAE,” Dr Faisal tweeted as the meeting in the UAE got under way. He reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan and expressed the hope that the engagement that began in the UAE would “end bloodshed in Afghanistan and bring peace to the region”.

He closely echoed a recent statement by the Pakistan Army’s top brass in which it was said that the corps commanders meeting “hopes for success of ongoing Afghan reconciliation process while supporting all stakeholders to bring Afghan war to a peaceful logical conclusion”.

Meeting in Abu Dhabi was also attended by officials from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and host country

It was the third meeting between the Taliban and US officials since the appointment of Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad as US special envoy for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. Their meeting last month continued for three days.

However, it was the first meeting sponsored by Islamabad and also the first outside Doha which hosts Taliban’s political office and was the venue of the earlier two rounds. It is believed that the latest meeting was convened outside Qatar to underscore Pakistan’s role in arranging it and at the same time allowing participation of the UAE and Saudi Arabia, both of whom had last year cut diplomatic ties with Doha.

Ambassador Khalilzad led the US side, whereas Taliban were represented at the talks by their ‘political negotiators’ from Qatar office.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid had confirmed in a statement sent to VoA the participation of insurgents’ political negotiators in the meeting with American officials.

Pakistan had arranged the meeting after receiving a request from US President Donald Trump for help in the peace process a fortnight ago. Prime Minister Imran Khan had announced the Pakistan-backed meeting in the UAE during his visit to Peshawar last Friday.

The Afghan government was not represented at Monday’s meeting because Taliban have stood firmly on not talking to the Afghan government, whom they call the puppet regime, and insisted on talking directly to the US.

The Afghan government, however, held consultations with the US, Saudi Arabia and the UAE a day before the talks with Taliban. Afghan National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib, who took part in the quadrilateral meeting on Sunday, tweeted on Monday that “President Ashraf Ghani’s roadmap for peace presented at Geneva and direct engagement of Afghan government with Taliban for intra-Afghan dialogue” were discussed.

Kabul, despite not getting a seat at the talks, is seeing the process positively. The Washington Post quoted Shah Hussain Murtazawi, a spokesman for President Ghani, as having said that the US-Taliban meeting was being coordinated with the Afghan government. “The Afghan government supports any effort and action that paves the way for an Afghan-led peace process,” he said.


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Taliban resumes peace talks with US envoy in Qatar

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Islamabad :The Taliban and the United States resumed talks in Doha, Qatar with an aim to end the stalemate over the participation of Afghan government in the negotiations for a political settlement of the conflict.

Zabihullah Mujahid, Taliban spokesman in a statement said, “Following American acceptance of the agenda of ending invasion of Afghanistan and preventing Afghanistan from being used against other countries in the future, talks with American representatives took place today in Doha.”

Doha meeting happened as the Taliban fighters attacked an Afghan intelligence agency — National Directorate of Security — installation in Maidan Shahr, Kabul, killing and wounding dozens of security personnel.

 

The two sides — US and Taliban — had last met in December 2018 in Abu Dhabi in a meeting facilitated by Pakistan and observed by Saudi Arabia and UAE. It had been agreed at the meeting that the engagement process would be continued. But, arranging the next round of talks became difficult due to the Taliban’s inflexibility over negotiating with the Afghan government. The Taliban have, meanwhile, been insisting that US should instead withdraw its forces and release Taliban prisoners.

There was no word from the US side on the Taliban claim after the latest meeting in Doha that US had agreed to discuss withdrawal plans.

Recently, the Afghan Taliban while rejecting media reports of possible talks with the US in Islamabad and reiterated that they will not deal directly with the Afghan Government.

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11 die as ships with Indian, Turkish crews catch fire in Kerch Strait

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Moscow:Two ships carrying Indian, Turkish and Libyan crew members had caught fire in the Kerch Strait separating Crimea from Russia, killing at least 11 people, media reports said on Tuesday.

The fire broke out off Russia’s territorial waters. Both vessels were flying Tanzanian flags. One of them was a liquefied natural gas carrier and the other a tanker. The fire broke out as the two ships were transferring fuel from one to the other.

One of the ships, the Candy, had a 17-member crew–nine Turkish citizens and eight Indian nationals.

 

The other, the Maestro, had a 15-member crew–seven Turkish nationals, seven Indian citizens and an intern from Libya, Russian news agency Tass quoted maritime authority as saying.

At least 11 sailors had died, Russian Maritime Agency was quoted by RT news, a Russian television network.

“Presumably, an explosion occurred (on one of the vessels). Then the fire spread to another vessel. A rescue tug is en route,” said a spokesman for the Russian Maritime Agency.

Some three dozen sailors managed to escape the burning ships by jumping off the vessels.

Twelve people have so far been rescued from the sea. Nine sailors were still listed as missing, the spokesperson said.

Severe weather conditions at sea had prevented rescue ships from taking victims to the shore for medical treatment, the report added.

The Kerch Strait is a key waterway that holds strategic importance for both Russia and Ukraine.

It is an important economic lifeline for Ukraine that allows ships leaving the port city of Mariupol to access the Black Sea.

It’s also the closest point of access for Russia to Crimea, a peninsula Moscow annexed in 2014. A Russian-built bridge over the Kerch Strait opened in May last year. PTI

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Pak shares Kartarpur draft pact, calls India ‘urgently’ to finalise deal

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Lahore/New Delhi: Pakistan said it has shared a draft agreement on the Kartarpur Corridor with India and invited New Delhi to “urgently” send a delegation to Islamabad to “negotiate and finalise” the proposal.

The proposed agreement aims at facilitating travel of Indian Sikh pilgrims to Darbar Sahib Kartarpur Gurudwara in Narowal, nearly 4 km away from Gurdaspur border on the Indian side.

“The draft agreement between the two governments has been shared with New Delhi through the Indian High Commission in Islamabad,” Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal said in a statement.

 

The move is in line with Pakistan’s policy of promoting inter-faith harmony and religious tolerance and Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s vision of a peaceful neighbourhood, he added.

Pakistan has appointed Director-General (South Asia and SAARC) as the focal person on its side and requested India to designate its focal person soon.

Pakistan also invited India to “urgently send a delegation to Islamabad to negotiate and finalise the agreement”, Faisal said.

He also tweeted, “Continuing with PM Imran Khan’s initiative, Pakistan, today, shared the proposed draft agreement on Kartarpur Corridor with India. Indian delegation invited to visit Islamabad for an expedited conclusion of the agreement. Keeping promises – Work in progress on Kartarpur Corridor on Pakistan side.”

Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on November 26 last year laid the foundation stone of the Kartarpur corridor in Gurdaspur district.

Two days later on November 28, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan laid the foundation stone of the corridor at Narowal, 125 km from Lahore.

The decision to build the corridor – from Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur district to the international border – was taken by the Union Cabinet on November 22.

The much-awaited corridor will connect Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur – the final resting place of Sikh faith’s founder Guru Nanak Dev – with Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur district and facilitate visa-free movement of Indian Sikh pilgrims, who will have to just obtain a permit to visit Kartarpur.

The corridor was a long-pending demand of the Sikh community. Pakistan had committed to open the corridor in November on the occasion of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.

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