Islamabad:The Taliban said Monday they will participate in what they call “intra-Afghan” talks in Moscow designed to bring together prominent Afghan figures, including former President Hamid Karzai, opposition figures and tribal elders — but no Kabul government officials.
The two-day meeting in the Russian capital, which starts Tuesday, is seen as another step in a process aimed at resolving Afghanistan’s 17-year war, a process that has accelerated since the appointment last September of US peace envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad.
Khalilzad has been holding separate negotiations with the Taliban even as he presses for a dialogue that would bring together all key Afghan players.
However, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s office criticized the meeting in Moscow, saying that Afghan politicians attending the gathering were doing so “in order to gain power.” Ghani’s chief adviser, Fazel Fazly, tweeted that it was “regrettable.”
Suhail Shaheen, spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in the Gulf Arab state of Qatar, confirmed the Taliban participation. Their delegation is to be led by Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai.
The Taliban have refused to talk to Ghani’s government, which they denounce as a US puppet.
A statement released on Monday by Afghans attending the Moscow meeting described it as “the first step toward intra-Afghan dialogue.”
Along with Karzai, the former president, many of the 38 delegates from Kabul have held prominent government positions. Two presidential hopefuls are among those going to Moscow, including Hanif Atmar, who resigned as Ghani’s security adviser last August, apparently over differences with the president.
Also on the list are powerful warlords turned politicians and former Taliban insurgents who reconciled with the Kabul administration.
The Moscow gathering will further isolate Ghani, who has been irked by Khalilzad’s direct talks with the Taliban as well as the U.S. Envoy’s successive rounds of talks in regional countries.
The Russian government has denied orchestrating the meeting. Monday’s statement from Kabul said the Moscow-based Council of Afghan Society, an organization of the Afghan diaspora in Russia, was behind it.
It said the participants would discuss a range of issues, from a cease-fire, supporting Khalilzad initiatives to further “intra-Afghan” talks and ways to ensure a “powerful and democratic central government” in Afghanistan.
Washington has made no comments so far about the Russia-hosted talks. Since the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, following the Sept 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, Washington has spent more than USD 1 trillion on Afghanistan. President Donald Trump has repeatedly expressed his desire to bring US troops home, adding to the urgency of Khalilzad’s mission.
Reports late last year suggested Trump was considering withdrawing at least half of Washington’s estimated 15,000 troops from Afghanistan by the summer.
Pakistan among the few countries to successfully turn tide against terrorism: Imran
Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said that the country condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including state-terrorism against people under illegal occupation. The PM stated that Pakistan is “among the few countries to have successfully turned the tide against terrorism”.
Addressing the 19th Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit at Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, Khan reiterated that Pakistan is ready to share its experience and expertise in counter-terrorism. He added that growing intolerance and Islamophobia are threatening to accentuate religious fault-lines. He further said that Pakistan will remain actively engaged in SCO’s counter-terrorism initiatives.
Speaking on Afghanistan, PM Khan said that “the conflict in Afghanistan has no military solution”, adding that Pakistan is fully supporting efforts for “peace and reconciliation, through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process”.
“Excellencies, The world stands at a crossroads. For the first time in ages, we are seeing the advent of a multi-polar global order. Epicentres of economic power and growth momentum are shifting eastwards. Regional integration is speeding up. Disruptive technologies are maturing. Threats from terrorism to climate change to narcotics to bacterial resistance continue to loom large,” said PM Khan.
“There are increasing barriers to open trade and innovation. Meanwhile, growing intolerance and Islamophobia are threatening to accentuate religious fault-lines. For its part, Pakistan condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including State-terrorism against people under illegal occupation. We are among the few countries to have successfully turned the tide against terrorism,” added the Pakistan PM.
“Pakistan remains ready to share its experience and expertise in counter-terrorism. We will also remain actively engaged in SCO’s counter-terrorism initiatives. Excellencies, There is finally a realization that the conflict in Afghanistan has no military solution. Pakistan is fully supporting efforts for peace and reconciliation, through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process,” further said Pakistan PM Khan.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had reiterated India’s strong stand against terrorism and appealed that countries supporting, aiding and funding terrorism must be held accountable. PM Modi highlighted the spirit and ideals of SCO to strengthen cooperation in the fight against terrorism even as Khan looked on.
Without naming Pakistan, a country that has made state-sponsored terrorism its biggest policy to counter India for the last several decades, PM Modi said every country needs to come together, unite and fight against the scourge.
Putin says Russia will fight for the right of Palestinians to their own state
Moscow: Vladimir Putin has said Russia will fight for an independent Palestinian state, and called for the issues of the Middle East to be resolved through peaceful means.
Despite international criticism over Russia’s own role in the Ukrainian crisis, Mr Putin was hailed last week by a St Petersburg Cossack group for his ability to “bring order and stop wars”.
In an address to the Arab League summit in Egypt on Saturday, Putin spoke against foreign intervention in countries’ internal disputes and spoke of the role Russia can play in diplomatic channels.
While Russia openly opposes the stance of US-backed Israel on the Gaza crisis, its position in the Middle East is complicated. Putin is one of Iran’s key allies, but as he spoke on Saturday the core nations of the Arab League engaged in air strikes on the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.
His attempts to urge a peaceful solution in Yemen haven’t had much of an immediate impact – on Sunday, the Arab League agreed to the creation of a joint military forces comprised of around 40,000 elite troops to resolve the future “challenges” of the Middle East.
As one of the “Quartet” entities involved in Middle East peace negotiations, Russia has played a key role in talks about the fallout of last year’s Gaza crisis.
He told the summit this weekend: “Palestinians have the right to establish an independent and habitable state with a capital in East Jerusalem.
“Russia will continue to contribute to achieving this goal through bilateral and multilateral channels,” he said.
Trump claims Queen had fun with him during his UK visit
Washington: US President Donald Trump claimed that Britain
s Queen Elizabeth II had more fun during his state visit to the UK than in the last 25 years."I have such a great relationship, and we were laughing and having fun. And her people said she hasnt had so much fun in 25 years. Then I got criticized for it because they said we were having too much fun,” the Hill quoted Trump as saying.
Trump`s comments come two weeks after his first state visit to London to meet the 93-year-old monarch. During his three-day visit, the president dined with the Queen, members of the British royal family and other British politicians at Buckingham Palace.
Trump and the queen reaffirmed the importance of the Washington-London relationship during an elaborate state banquet.”On behalf of all Americans I offer a toast to the eternal friendship of our people, the vitality of our nations and to the long cherished and truly remarkable reign of her majesty, the queen,” Trump said in his toast during the event.
He also met Prime Minister Theresa May. Opposing Trump
s visit, thousands of people hit the streets. TheTrump Baby` blimp was flown by the demonstrators outside the Houses of Parliament, according to CNN, alongside a 16-foot robot version of Trump sitting on the toilet and tweeting.
Other activists came dressed as gorillas, with signs reading that they “only eat chlorinated chicken” — a nod to concerns in Britain that a post-Brexit trade deal with the US would mean a decline in food standards for imported produce.