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Kabul sees Taliban-Afghan opposition talks in Moscow as betrayal

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KABUL: Senior Afghan officials warned that talks this week between Taliban militants and opposition politicians, including former president Hamid Karzai, betrayed the principles of democracy and Afghanistan’s best interests.

The talks, starting in Moscow, come 10 days after peace negotiations between the United States and the Taliban in Qatar ended with signs of progress towards the withdrawal of thousands of foreign troops from Afghanistan and an end to more than 17 years of war.

Moscow had decided to snub Afghan government officials, sources said, to ensure the participation of the Taliban who refuse to hold talks with representatives of Western-backed President Ashraf Ghani, branding them puppets of the United States.

 

Fazel Fazly, chief adviser to Ghani, expressed “regret” that politicians who previously led Afghanistan’s democratic transition were to meet the Taliban. “[They] are ready to bypass these principles and move towards [the principles’] destruction due to differences and being away from power,” Fazly said in a Tweet.

Abdullah Abdullah, the government’s chief executive, said the Taliban would have achieved their objective once foreign troops withdrew, ending the need for talks.

While Russian officials are expected to remain in the background, the Moscow talks highlight the growing role Russia is playing in Afghanistan.

Karzai confirmed his attendance at the talks, saying in a tweet he would carry a message of “peace, unity sovereignty and progress for all of us”.

Another delegate to the Moscow sessions, Mohammad Hanif Atmar, an influential former national security adviser to Ghani, said they would emphasise the need to include the government in future intra-Afghan discussions.

But he urged the government not to look at the peace process from a “narrow governmental window”.

Taliban spokesman Zabhullah Mujahid said the conference was about “opening channels to reach an understanding with non-government Afghan political groups”. He said the movement wanted to explain its policies towards an “enduring peace in the homeland and establishment of an intra-Afghan Islamic system of governance”.


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Don’t leave children of foreign fighters in legal limbo, UN urges states

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LONDON: Children of foreign fighters must have the right to belong to a country, lawyers and the United Nations said , after Britain stripped the citizenship of a teenage mother who travelled to Syria at 15 to join IS.

The fate of Shamima Begum, who was found in a refugee camp in Syria last week, has illustrated the ethical, legal and security conundrum that governments face when dealing with the families of militants who swore to destroy the West.

With IS depleted and Kurdish-led militia poised to seize the group’s last holdout in eastern Syria, Western capitals are trying to work out what to do with battle-hardened foreign jihadist fighters and their wives and children.

 

The UN children’s agency, Unicef, said all children have “the right to a name, an identity and a nationality” according to international laws and governments had a responsibility to adopt safeguards that prevent a child from being born stateless.

“But where this occurs, those children need legal-aid and support to ensure no child is denied their right to citizenship,” Unicef said in an email.

There is no reliable estimate for the number of stateless people globally although the UN estimates it could be 12 million and wants to end statelessness by 2024 as it can leave people with no access to basic rights like education and health.

Amal de Chickera, co-director of the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion, said Britain should have taken Begum and her child and put her under investigation as it had an obligation to look after the baby and children in similar cases. “It’s deeply concerning to see this happening to a baby that’s just a few days old,” he said in a phone interview.

“One must question the effectiveness of this measure: does citizenship-stripping really strengthen or protect national security? Or can it potentially lead to further radicalisation?”—Thomson Reuters Foundation

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UN envoy says risk of Israeli-Palestinian war looms large

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United Nations: The UN Mideast envoy says the prospect of peace between Israel and the Palestinians “is fading by the day as the specter of violence and radicalism grows” and “the risk of war continues to loom large”.

Nikolay Mladenov also told the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday that a negotiated two-state solution is drifting further away.

In his words: “What is needed, first and foremost, is the necessary leadership and political will for change. Until that will can be found, Palestinians and Israelis will continue to slide into increasingly hazardous territory.”

 

Mladenov stressed that leaders must believe peace is possible through negotiations.

He also said leaders and the international community must be committed to support Israelis and Palestinians to reach a peace deal based on U.N. resolutions and bilateral agreements.

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Saudi to free 850 Indian prisoners from its jails

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Mumbai: Saudi Arabia will release 850 Indians from its prisons after a request from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s (MBS) visit to New Delhi, India’s Foreign Ministry has said.

Saudi jails hold the greatest number of Indians incarcerated in any country abroad. As of January 2019, 2,224 Indians were in prison in the kingdom for crimes including murder, kidnapping, bribery, and offences related to drugs and alcohol, according to Indian Foreign Ministry figures.

The approximately 2.7 million Indians in Saudi Arabia form the largest expatriate community in the kingdom, with many working in low-paid jobs in sectors such as construction, domestic services and retailing that Saudis spurn.

 

“At the request of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, His Royal Highness the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia has ordered the release of 850 Indian prisoners lodged in Saudi jails,” India’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson said in a tweet.

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