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Abdullah meets with Iran’s FM, discusses Afghan peace process

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(Last Updated On: October 18, 2020)

Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah met Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Sunday to discuss the latest developments around the Afghan peace process. 

Abdullah arrived in Tehran early Sunday for an official two-day visit as part of his schedule to meet with neighboring and regional countries in a bid to garner support from them for the peace initiative. 

In a tweet following his meeting with Zarif, Abdullah said: “A pleasure to meet again with HE Javad Zarif, the Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran. We exchanged views on the Afghan Peace Process, intra-Afghan talks in Doha & bilateral issues of interest.”

“Stressing on brotherly bonds between our two countries, I thanked the government of Iran for the invitation, its continued principled position on Afghan peace efforts & reiterated that peace & stability in Afghanistan amounts to peace & stability in the region and beyond,” he tweeted. 

“While welcoming our delegation, HE FM Zarif assured us of Iran’s continued support for the Afghan Peace Process. He emphasized on a process that assures Afghan ownership & aims for stability & an inclusive outcome,” Abdullah stated. 

After his meeting with Zarif, Abdullah then met with Iran’s speaker of parliament, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf. “We discussed the Afghan Peace Process, & developments in Doha talks. Ghalibaf assured us of Majlis’s (parliament) support for a lasting peace in Afghanistan.”

Abdullah’s visit to Iran comes just days after the United States’ peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said during a webinar that in terms of Afghanistan’s peace process, “there are two Irans; the foreign ministry Iran which says positive things and makes statements that could be construed as supporting the peace process,” but then there is the other Iran that would like to “keep the US entangled in a war.”

Iran “appears to want the war to go on rather than for the peace process to succeed,” he said adding that “we would like Iran … to participate in the regional efforts in support of peace.” 

During Sunday’s meeting in Tehran, Zarif reiterated Iran’s support for the Afghan government and the peace process 

Abdullah is also expected to meet with President Hassan Rouhani during his visit.

COVID-19

Global coronavirus caseload crosses the 40 million mark

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(Last Updated On: October 19, 2020)

The number of COVID-19 cases worldwide passed the 40 million mark on Monday, according to a Reuters tally. 

Reuters reported that this comes as the onset of winter in the northern hemisphere appears to have fuelled a resurgence in the spread of the disease. 

Experts however believe the true numbers of both cases and deaths are likely much higher, given deficiencies in testing and potential under-reporting by some countries.

The Reuters data shows the pace of the pandemic continues to increase as it took just 32 days to go from 30 million global cases to 40 million, compared with the 38 days it took to get from 20 to 30 million, the 44 days between 10 and 20 million, and the three months it took to reach 10 million cases from when the first cases were reported in Wuhan, China, in early January.

Reuters also reported that record one-day increases in new infections were seen at the end of last week, with global coronavirus cases rising above 400,000 for the first time.

The United States, India, and Brazil remain the worst affected countries in the world. 

 

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UN secretary general condemns Ghor attack 

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(Last Updated On: October 19, 2020)

UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Monday strongly condemned the attack in Ghor province on Sunday that killed and wounded dozens of civilians. 

In a statement issued by the organization, Guterres said he “strongly condemns the indiscriminate attack today on a provincial police headquarters in Afghanistan’s province of Ghor, in an area where many civilians are present.”  

The UN stated that according to preliminary reports, the car bomb claimed the lives of at least 13 people and injured dozens of civilians, including women and children. 

“Those who carry out such crimes must be held accountable,” the statement read. 

“The Secretary-General expresses his deepest sympathies to the families of the victims and wishes a speedy recovery to those injured,” Guterres said.

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US peace envoy warns high levels of violence could derail peace process 

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(Last Updated On: October 19, 2020)

US special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad warned that “distressingly” high levels of violence could derail the peace process and the understanding that there is no military solution to the war in Afghanistan. 

In a series of tweets overnight Monday, Khalilzad appeared to have been responding to Sunday’s spat between the Taliban and the US Forces Afghanistan after the insurgent group accused the US of violating the Doha agreement by carrying out airstrikes in Helmand and Farah provinces last week. 

The US Forces Afghanistan responded not long after rejecting the claim and said they were within the terms of the agreement as they had been defending the Afghan security forces who had come under attack by the Taliban. 

The Taliban also issued a veiled threat in their statement and said: “All responsibility and consequences from the continuation of such actions shall fall squarely on the shoulders of the American side.”

Khalilzad meanwhile said in his Twitter statement: “Unfounded charges of violations and inflammatory rhetoric do not advance peace. Instead, we should pursue strict adherence to all articles of the US-Taliban Agreement and US-Afghanistan Joint Declaration and not neglect the commitment to gradually reduce violence.

“Continued high levels of violence can threaten the peace process and the agreement and the core understanding that there is no military solution. Violence today remains distressingly high in spite of the recent reaffirmation of the need for substantial reduction.

“Taliban attacks in Helmand, including on the provincial capital; Taliban attacks against Afghan security forces; & Taliban complaints of ANSF operations and coalition strikes led to a recent meeting in Doha.

“All sides agreed to decrease attacks and strikes and reduce violence and casualties. Although violence in Helmand has decreased, violence overall in the country remains high.

“Our expectation has been and remains that violence comes down and stays down.

“It was a focus of the Agreement we signed, further highlighted in connection with the releases of the last batch of prisoners and reaffirmed again in the most recent commitment all sides made to adhere to all aspects of the deal,” Khalilzad said. 

Reacting to the car bombing on Sunday in Ghor province that killed at least 13 people, Khalilzad stated: “Violence has stalked Afghans for far too long. It has robbed far too many Afghans of their loved ones. The tragedy in Ghor today is the most recent example.”

He said: “The belief that says violence must escalate to win concessions at the negotiating table is very risky. Such an approach can undermine the peace process and repeats past miscalculations by Afghan leaders.

“We must adhere to the letter and spirit of what was negotiated and the recent understanding. They provide a path to minimizing Afghan loss of life and protecting an historic opportunity for peace which must not be missed,” Khalilzad said.

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