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Afghanistan, Turkey, Pakistan, call on Taliban to commit to Afghan peace talks

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(Last Updated On: April 26, 2021)

Afghanistan, Turkey, and Pakistan on Friday called on the Taliban to reaffirm their commitment to achieving an inclusive negotiated settlement leading to lasting peace in Afghanistan.

The Foreign Ministers of these countries held a trilateral meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, and discussed the Afghan peace process.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar, who was tested positive for COVID-19, virtually attended the conference.

“Regretfully I tested positive for Covid-19 and had to attend the Afghanistan-Turkey-Pakistan Meeting virtually,” Atmar tweeted.

“Grateful to my brothers Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Shah Mahmood Qureshi for supporting a peaceful, sovereign, united and democratic Afghanistan.”

“Deploring violence, we called on Taliban for an immediate ceasefire and return to negotiation,” Atmar said.

In a joint statement issued after talks in Istanbul, the three diplomats stated that a sustainable peace can be achieved only through an inclusive Afghan-led and Afghan-owned political process that aims a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire along with an inclusive political settlement to end the conflict in the country.

The diplomats emphasized the urgent need for an immediate ceasefire both to end the existing high level of violence and to provide a conducive atmosphere for the peace talks.

A U.S.-backed Afghan peace conference to be hosted in Istanbul hosted by Turkey, Qatar, and the United Nations on Saturday was postponed over the Taliban’s non-participation.

Ankara has said the talks will be held after the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan but no new date has been set.

The foreign ministers of Turkey, Afghanistan, and Pakistan on Friday discussed the planned conference, aimed at fast-tracking an agreement between the Afghan government and the Taliban following Washington’s announcement that foreign troops will leave Afghanistan by Sept. 11.

The ministers “called on all parties, in particular, the Taliban to reaffirm their commitment for achieving an inclusive negotiated settlement leading to lasting peace in Afghanistan desired by the Afghan people, the region and the international community”, according to the joint statement.

They also “deplored the continuing high level of violence in Afghanistan.”

Speaking at a joint news conference after the talks, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Ankara’s support for the Afghan peace process and efforts to organize the conference in Istanbul would continue.

“As the co-organizers, we are continuing talks on this with all sides,” he said, alongside Pakistani Foreign Minister Shan Mahmood Qureshi.

Afghan Foreign Minister Hanif Atmar joined the meeting via video link for health reasons, Cavusoglu said.

The Taliban had earlier refused to attend any summits until all foreign forces were pulled out of Afghanistan. The Taliban and the United States last year agreed that all foreign forces would be withdrawn from Afghanistan by May 1, a date that was pushed back last week by U.S. President Joe Biden.

The Islamist Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, when they were ousted by U.S.-led forces. Since then, they have waged a long-running insurgency and still control wide swathes of territory.

Reporter: Bais Hayat

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UN chief Guterres appointed for second term

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(Last Updated On: June 18, 2021)

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was appointed for a second-five year-term on Friday by the 193-member U.N. General Assembly.

“I will give it my all to ensure the blossoming of trust between and among nations large and small, to build bridges, and to engage relentlessly in confidence building,” Guterres told the General Assembly after taking the oath of office.

The 15-member Security Council earlier this month recommended the General Assembly re-appoint Guterres. His second term starts on beginning on Jan. 1, 2022.

Guterres succeeded Ban Ki-moon in January 2017, just weeks before Donald Trump became U.S. president. Much of Guterres‘ first term was focused on placating Trump, who questioned the value of the United Nations and multilateralism.

The United States is the largest U.N. financial contributor, responsible for 22% of the regular budget and around a quarter of the peacekeeping budget. President Joe Biden, who took office in January, has started restoring funding cuts made by Trump to U.N. agencies and re-engaged with the world body.

U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the United Nations faced historic challenges, but she hoped that with Guterres at the helm “the next five years will see more peace, more security, and more prosperity than the last.”

“It will require hard work, political will, and accountability from all U.N. member states,” she said in a statement, adding every member states should have “an impassioned commitment” to human rights.

Guterres, 72, was prime minister of Portugal from 1995 to 2002 and head of the U.N. refugee agency from 2005 to 2015. As secretary-general, he has been a cheerleader for climate action, COVID-19 vaccines for all and digital cooperation.

When he took the reins as U.N. chief, the world body was struggling to end wars and deal with humanitarian crises in Syria and Yemen. Those conflicts are still unresolved, and Guterres is also now faced with emergencies in Myanmar and the Tigray region of Ethiopia.

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Afghanistan, Kazakhstan sign military cooperation agreement

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(Last Updated On: June 18, 2021)

A bilateral agreement on military cooperation between Afghanistan and Kazakhstan was signed on Friday, the Afghan National Security Council (NSC) said.

According to the NSC, Afghan National Security Advisor NSA Hamdullah Mohib and Kazakh Defense Minister Nurlan Yermekbayev signed the agreement during Mohib’s visit to the Kazakhstan’s capital Nur-Sultan.

The NSC stated that the pact was aimed at paving the way for military-to-military mutual support across various domains.

“The agreement enables joint exercises, military medicine cooperation, equipment modernization, logistical and technical support, battle training, and military intelligence collaboration between the two nations,” Mohib’s office said.

Rahmatullah Andar, spokesman for the NSC stated that “Joint military exercise bilateral meeting about defense policies, medical cooperation, renewing equipment, technical and logistical support, military training and intelligence military cooperation included in the agreement.”

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Another three districts fall to Taliban; gov’t forces retreated

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(Last Updated On: June 18, 2021)

The Taliban militants have captured another three districts in the last 24 hours, sources said.

According to the sources, Dahana-i-Ghori district in Baghlan province; Awba district in Herat; and Shirin Tagab district in Faryab province were captured by the Taliban, bringing the total fallen districts to 37 since May 1.

 In Herat, the Awba district fell to the Taliban early Friday morning following days of heavy clashes between the Afghan army and the militants.

Sources said that an army base was under siege by the Taliban for four days and the Afghan forces retreated from the district this morning.

 In Baghlan, the Afghan forces retreated from the Dahana-i-Ghori district on Thursday night.

Amanullah Sanjani, an army commander, was killed in the skirmish.

Meanwhile, the provincial council of Faryab stated that the Shirin Tagab district of the province was fallen to the Taliban following a heavy skirmish with the insurgents.

The Taliban released footage from the district that appears to show that dozens of Afghan forces have surrendered to the group. No credible source, however, confirmed the footage.

According to Ariana News findings, at least 195 members of the Afghan Security and Defense Forces (ANSDF) have been killed and 105 others wounded in Faryab, Kunduz, Takhar, Herat, Baghlan, and Sar-e-Pul provinces this week.

The Afghan Army stated that at least 256 Taliban militants were killed and 150 more wounded in air and ground operations across the country. 

This comes as the Taliban capturedthe Shinkai district of Zabul province without any clash fighting after mediation by tribal elders and local officials, sources said. 

The footage shows that militants are escorting the Afghan Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) out to the provincial capital Qatal city.

“Its Zabul DG, officials and ANDSF convoy that was escorted by Taliban security from Shinkai district till Qalat city. This deal was mediated by DG, tribal elders. The mediation was that Shinkai and ANDSF weapons are handover over to the Taliban. Big shame!” Haji AttaJan Haqbayan tweeted.

Haqbayan warned that the Zabul province would also collapse to the hands of the Taliban “if the situation goes this way.”

He also shared a video of an Afghan army officer, who was on duty in ANA Battalion of Shinkai district, who is saying that hundreds of weapons were seized by the Taliban,

“Provincial officials of Zabul must be investigated,” Haqbayan said.

Afghan Army, meanwhile, confirmed that the Taliban overrun district.

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