KABUL: The United States has said the Taliban’s failure to engage in talks to end Afghanistan’s nearly 17-year conflict is “unacceptable” and called on Pakistan to exert more pressure on the militants.
US envoy Alice Wells made the remarks during a visit to Kabul , two weeks after an unprecedented ceasefire triggered spontaneous street celebrations involving Taliban fighters and security forces.
“I think it [the ceasefire reaction] creates this impulse for everyone to renew their efforts to find a negotiated political solution,” Wells, the principal deputy assistant secretary for the State Department’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, told reporters in remarks embargoed until Sunday.
Alice Wells says Islamabad should do more to bring militants to negotiating table
“Increasingly I think it’s becoming simply unacceptable for the Taliban not to negotiate.” The Taliban have so far ignored President Ashraf Ghani’s offer of peace negotiations. Instead, they have insisted on direct talks with the United States, which Washington has repeatedly refused.
One of the Taliban’s key demands for engaging in talks is the complete withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.
Wells said that since the Afghan government and United States were willing to start talking without preconditions, the onus was now on the Taliban to respond. “Right now it’s the Taliban leaders… who aren’t residing in Afghanistan, who are the obstacle to a negotiated political settlement,” she said.
Ms Wells, who is due to hold talks in Pakistan on Monday, said Islamabad needed to do more to pressurise the Taliban and bring them to the negotiating table.
“Pakistan has an important role to play… but we have not yet seen that sustained and decisive action on the part of Islamabad,” she said. “It’s going to be very hard for us to achieve our objectives… if Pakistan isn’t working with us.” — AFP
President Ghani has said that Afghanistan and Pakistan have forged a unique deal to root out terrorism from their region, Anwar Iqbal in Washington adds.
Ghani’s statement — made at a Saturday afternoon event in Kabul — came a day after the Afghan government formally ended the Eid ceasefire, allowing Afghan forces to resume fighting after more than two weeks of unprecedented peace.
“It has been agreed on paper for the first time. The Afghanistan-Pakistan negotiations framework is now on paper. Now, serious actions are required,” Mr Ghani said.
Afghanistan’s Tolo news agency reported that the Afghan president also talked about “some recent improvements” in counter-terrorism cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan but did not explain what those improvements were.
Ghani insisted that “the issue of Taliban should be solved in our relations with Pakistan,” said the Tolo report. “Some things have been done in this respect and some things are still needed to be done,” he added.
The report — reproduced by some US media outlets — also included a quote from Zahid Nasrullah, Pakistan’s ambassador to Kabul, pointing out that Pakistan had strongly supported the Eid ceasefire.
“Pakistan’s President Mamnoon Hussain was in China when he announced that Pakistan is strongly supporting the ceasefire. Pakistan knows its role well in peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan and we will fulfil our role very well,” he said.
Sri Lanka bombings death toll rises to 359, 18 more suspects held overnight
Colombo: Police say the death toll in the Easter attacks in Sri Lanka has risen to 359 and more suspects have been arrested.
Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara also said Wednesday morning that 18 suspects were arrested overnight, raising the total detained to 58.
The prime minister warned that several suspects armed with explosives were still at large.
Another top government official said the suicide bombings at the churches, hotels and other sites were carried out by Islamic fundamentalists in apparent retaliation for the New Zealand mosque massacre last month.
The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the Sri Lanka attacks and released images that purported to show the attackers. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said that investigators were still determining the extent of the bombers’ foreign links.
UN says over 250 killed, over 1,200 injured in Libya battle
TRIPOLI: At least 264 people have been killed and over 1,200 wounded in weeks of fighting on the outskirts of Libya’s capital, the World Health Organisation said , as African leaders gathered in Cairo to discuss the crisis.
The agency called on Twitter for “a temporary cessation of hostilities, and for all parties to respect humanitarian law”.
Eastern-based strongman Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive on the capital on April 4, as his self-styled Libyan National Army pledged “to purge the west of terrorists and mercenaries”.
Forces loyal to the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), based in Tripoli, launched a counter-attack at the weekend.
The fighting has since eased somewhat as both sides appeared to be preparing for the next phase of the battle.
Fighting in Tripoli’s southern suburbs has so far displaced at least 35,000 people, UN humanitarian coordinator for Libya Maria do Valle Ribeiro said on Monday.
“Displacement is continuing at an increasing rate every day,” she said, warning that the figures were a conservative estimate.
The two sides have reached a near stalemate since armed groups backing the GNA launched their counter-attack on Saturday.
An AFP team on the ground at the weekend confirmed that GNA-aligned fighters had pushed the frontline back several kilometres in the southern district of Ain-Zara, around a dozen kilometres south of the city centre.
Another frontline is a little further southwest, around the districts of al-Swani and Qasr ben-Ghachir, around 30 kilometres from Tripoli, on a key road between the capital and the old international airport.
Occasional bursts of gunfire — and heavier projectiles — have been audible, sometimes resonating in the city centre.
“It is calm on most fronts,” Mustafa al-Mejii, a spokesman for GNA forces, said.
“Orders were given to forces on the perimeter of Tripoli airport to consolidate their positions,” he said.
Haftar’s force said on its official Facebook page it had received “significant” reinforcements, particularly in the west.
Valle Ribeiro said civilians were being displaced every day, while some had been trapped by fire including “heavy artillery and… shelling in some densely populated parts of the city”.
“Any country that has leverage should be using that leverage to ensure that civilians can be protected,” she said.
African leaders were due to meet in Cairo at the behest of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to discuss the violence.
Israel to name Golan settlement after Trump
JERUSALEM: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he plans to name a new settlement in the occupied Golan after US President Donald Trump in appreciation of his recognition of Israel’s claim of sovereignty there.
Netanyahu, who has been on a trip to the region with his family for the week-long Passover holiday, said in a video message that he would present a resolution to the government calling for a new settlement named after the US president.
“All Israelis were deeply moved when President Trump made his historic decision to recognise Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights,” he said.
Trump again broke with longstanding international consensus on March 25 when he recognised Israel’s claim of sovereignty over the part of the strategic plateau it seized from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War.
The decision came only two weeks ahead of a tightly contested Israeli election, which saw Netanyahu win a fifth term in office.
Trump has shifted US policy sharply in Israel’s favour since taking office, most notably by recognising the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Israel annexed 1,200 square kilometres (460 square miles) of the Golan it seized in 1981, a move never recognised by the international community.
Around 18,000 Syrians from the Druze sect — most of whom refuse to take Israeli citizenship — remain in the occupied Golan.
Some 20,000 Israeli settlers have moved there, spread over 33 settlements.
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