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Taliban seek venue change for peace talks with US

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PESHAWAR: The Taliban will not attend planned peace talks with the United States in Saudi Arabia this month, and want to shift the venue to Qatar, Taliban officials said, seeking to fend off Riyadh’s push to include the Afghan government in talks.

The upcoming negotiations, the fourth in a series aimed at ending the 17-year war in Afghanistan, are scheduled between the leaders of the Taliban and US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad to discuss the withdrawal of foreign forces and a possible ceasefire in 2019.

Leaders of the hardline Islamic militant group have rejected the Kabul government’s offer for direct talks, despite growing international pressure in favour of the Western-backed Afghan government having a seat at the table.

 

“We were supposed to meet US officials in Riyadh next week and continue our peace process that remained incomplete in Abu Dhabi last month,” a senior Taliban member based in Afghanistan told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

“The problem is that leaders of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) wanted us to definitely meet the Afghan government delegation, which we cannot afford to do now, and we have cancelled the meeting in Saudi Arabia,” he said.

The Taliban want to change the venue for the talks to Qatar, he said, the political headquarters of the militant group that is fighting to restore strict Islamic law in Afghanistan and the site for earlier talks.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed the group has decided to cancel the meeting in Saudi Arabia, but did not provide information about a new meeting venue.
The United States embassy in Afghanistan did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Another senior Taliban leader said the group had explained to Saudi Arabia that it was not possible for the Taliban to meet the Afghan government at this stage.

“Everyone is aware of the fact that the Afghan government wanted the US and its allies not to leave Afghanistan and we have paid a heavy price to expel all foreign forces from our country,” he said. “Why should we talk to the Afghan government?”


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International

Trump hints at some announcement at ‘Howdy Modi!’ event in Houston

Press Trust of India

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US President Donald Trump has hinted that there “could be” some announcement by him at the mega “Howdy Modi!” event in Houston on Sunday, where he would join Prime Minister Narendra Modi in addressing the 50,000-strong Indian diaspora.

The White House on Monday announced that Trump would join Modi at the mega Houston rally on September 22 as a “special gesture” by the US President to underscore the special bond between the two countries.It is for the first time that Trump and Modi would share a stage together. The event is the third meeting between the two leaders in three months, after the G-20 summit in Japan in June and the G-7 summit in France last month.

“Could be. I have a very good relationship with Prime Minister Modi,” Trump told reporters on Wednesday aboard Air Force One on his way back from California to Washington DC. He did not elaborate.He was responding to a question if there would be any announcement when he goes to Houston for the rally with the Indian leader.

 

According to media reports, officials of the two countries are trying to finalise a trade deal before Modi and Trump meet in Houston.

Trade tensions between India and the US have been rising with Trump complaining that tariffs imposed by New Delhi on American products were “no longer acceptable”.

The US in June terminated India’s designation as beneficiary developing country under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) programme.

India imposed retaliatory tariffs on 28 US products, including almonds and apples from June 5, after the Trump administration revoked its preferential trade privileges.

Reacting to a record number of 50,000 Indian-Americans registering for the event, Trump said the crowd for the event had now become bigger after it was announced that he would be going there.

“He (Modi) has got a big crowd coming and I guess the crowd just got a lot bigger because they just announced–he asked, would I go, and I will go,” Trump said.

After the Houston event, Trump would travel to Ohio for an event with the visiting Australian Prime Minister.

“Then we’re stopping in Ohio on the way back and then I guess we do the United Nations the following week,” the US President said.

Trump also said that he had a great relationship with both India and Pakistan.

Modi will be visiting the US from September 21-27 for the annual session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). It is his first US trip after winning a second term as prime minister in May.

The two leaders are again scheduled to meet later in the week in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) session.

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Kashmir may not be a major topic during PM Modi-Xi Jinping summit next month: China

Press Trust of India

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China on Tuesday said the Kashmir issue may not be a “major topic” of discussion during the planned 2nd informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping, notwithstanding the high voltage campaign by its close ally Pakistan over India revoking the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.

Tension between India and Pakistan escalated after New Delhi revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status on August 5. Reacting to India’s move on Kashmir, Pakistan downgraded diplomatic ties with New Delhi and expelled the Indian High Commissioner.

A senior Chinese official said it should be left to Modi and Xi on the issues they would like to discuss.

“As for Kashmir will be on the agenda, I’m not sure because this is kind of informal summit and leaders’ meeting I think better we need to give the leaders much time to discuss whatever they would like to discuss,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a media briefing here.

“For this kind of informal summit, I think it is better to leave the leaders much time to discuss whatever they would like to discuss,” she said.

Hua said Kashmir may not be a major topic of discuss between the two leaders. “I think for those things like Kashmir, I don’t think it will be a major topic occupying the talks, that is my understanding,” she said.

“But for the leaders, they will be free to talk about whatever they like,” Hua said, responding to a question.

China, the all-weather ally of Pakistan, already tried to take the Kashmir issue to the UN Security Council last month. But a closed-door meeting of the UNSC, in a snub to both Beijing and Islamabad, ended without any outcome or statement.

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European Parliament set to discuss Kashmir

Agencies

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Brussels, Sep 17: The European Parliament is expected to hold discussions on the Kashmir issue on Tuesday, the media reported.

After India scrapped its Constitution”s Articles 370 and 35A, which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir, and divided the state into two union territories, Islamabad has been crying foul over New Delhi”s move and continuously trying to highlight the issue on a global level.

However, Pakistan has failed to get the international community to censure India.

The report said that in early September, the European Parliament “had debated an urgent resolution for the horrible conditions, including human rights violations, in Indian-occupied Kashmir”.

The European Union”s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, delivered a detailed policy statement on the Kashmir situation on September 17, it said. (IANS)

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