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Taliban talks: Priority is to end war in Afghanistan, says White House

Press Trust of India

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Washington: The priority of the Trump Administration is to end the war in Afghanistan and to ensure the civil war-ravaged country never becomes a base for terrorism, the White House said amid reports of its negotiations with the Taliban.

Our priority is to end the war in Afghanistan and to ensure that there is never a base for terrorism in Afghanistan again, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters on Monday at her first conference of the year.

Negotiations are going to continue, she said.

 

Earlier, The New York Times reported that the US and Taliban have reached an agreement in principle on Afghan peace deal.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told reporters at the Pentagon that the talks with the Taliban by Special US Representatives Zalmay Khalilzad is encouraging.
The Pentagon has not been asked to prepare for a full withdrawal from Afghanistan, he said.

NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg to the Pentagon said that the alliance continues to remain with the United States in Afghanistan.

We welcome the talks with Taliban, he said, adding that Khalilzad briefed all allies a few weeks ago.

The reason why NATO is in Afghanistan is to create a condition for peaceful solution to make sure that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for international terrorists and to send a message to Taliban that they will not win on the battlefield, so they have to sit down at the negotiating table, and therefore we are encouraged by what we see now, the progress and talks with Taliban, Stoltenberg said.

NATO, he said, is in Afghanistan to create the conditions for a peaceful, negotiated solution.We are there to train and assist and advise the Afghan soldiers so they can take care of security and stability in Afghanistan themselves, he said.


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International

Saudi crown prince in China on latest stop of Asian tour

Agencies

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Riyadh: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrived in China on the latest stop of a sweep through Asia that aims to expand the kingdom’s influence on the continent.

Prince Mohammed touched down in the morning following earlier visits to India and Pakistan.

He’s due to meet top officials including Chinese president and ruling Communist Party leader, Xi Jinping, on Friday, highlighting Saudi Arabia’s importance as one of China’s top oil suppliers and a market for its exports, including military drones.

 

Prince Mohammed’s visit to Beijing follows one earlier this week by a high-powered delegation from Saudi Arabia’s chief strategic rival Iran.

At a meeting on Wednesday, Xi told Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani that “China’s resolve to develop a comprehensive strategic partnership with Iran will remain unchanged,” regardless of the evolving international situation, according to China’s official Xinhua News Agency.

The trip comes five months after the crown prince came under intense pressure following the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. At the same time, China is facing growing international criticism over its treatment of its Muslim minority groups.

Thus far, Turkey has been the only majority Muslim country to criticise Beijing, with its Foreign Ministry this month calling treatment of minority Uighurs “a great cause of shame for humanity” and saying it is “no longer a secret” that China has arbitrarily detained more than a million Uighurs in “concentration camps”.

Commenting Wednesday on the crown prince’s visit, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said recent years have “seen a positive momentum in our cooperation with fruitful outcomes in various areas such as infrastructure and space satellites”.

“We hope that through this visit we will enhance our relations enhance mutual trust, deepen cooperation … and inject momentum into our bilateral relations,” Geng said.

Prince Mohammed is due to visit South Korea after Beijing. MBS was in New Delhi yesterday, where he met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Modi is in South Korea today for a two-day state visit and will meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

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

Agencies

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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

Agencies

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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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