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Fighting flares between Armenia, Azerbaijan over disputed region

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(Last Updated On: September 27, 2020)

Turkey has called on its eastern neighbor Armenia to immediately stop what it called hostility towards Azerbaijan after heavy clashes broke out on Sunday between the two countries over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Armenia, which claims Azerbaijan launched an air and artillery attack, has declared martial law and called for total mobilization of the male population. 

Azerbaijan in turn said it was responding to shelling along the whole front. Both sides have reported civilian deaths.

Russia also weighed in on Sunday and called for an immediate ceasefire and for talks in order to stabilize the region. 

Armenia and Azerbaijan were part of the Soviet Union before its collapse in 1991 and have since then been embroiled in an unresolved dispute over the region. 

Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but it is controlled by ethnic Armenians.

Heavy fighting between the two countries erupted on Sunday, as they blamed each other for the escalation that led to reports of casualties.

Armenia’s ministry of defense said its forces downed two Azerbaijani helicopters and three drones in response to an attack it said began at 04:10 GMT.

But Azerbaijan’s defense ministry said it launched a “counteroffensive to suppress Armenia’s combat activity and ensure the safety of the population”, using tanks, artillery missiles, combat aviation and drones. 

The ministry said an Azerbaijani helicopter had been downed but its crew had survived.

“There are reports of dead and wounded among civilians and military servicemen,” Hikmet Hajiyev, spokesman for the Azerbaijani presidency, said in a statement.

In a statement on Facebook, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said “the government has decided to declare martial law and a total mobilization”, telling citizens to “get ready to defend our sacred homeland”.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, meanwhile, said in a televised address to the nation that “there are losses among the Azerbaijani forces and the civilian population as a result of the Armenian bombardment”.

He warned that those using intimidation tactics against his country would regret it, adding that Azerbaijan defends its lands and Nagorno-Karabakh belongs to it.

Al-Jazeera reported that in Nagorno-Karabakh officials also declared martial law and ordered citizens to mobilize. The region’s ombudsman Artak Beglaryan said “there are civilian casualties” among the population in the region. 

Meanwhile, Turkish Defense Minister Huluzi Akar told Anadolu News Agency that the “biggest obstacle to peace and stability in the Caucasus is the hostile stance of Armenia and it must immediately turn back from this hostility that will send the region into fire.” 

Turkey’s Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said on Sunday that Ankara would support Azerbaijan with “all its resources”.

There was no immediate reaction to Turkey’s comments from Armenia.

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Renegades signs Afghan teenager for Australia’s Big Bash League

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(Last Updated On: October 29, 2020)

Australia’s Melbourne Renegades have signed up 15-year-old Noor Ahmad after a 12-month scouting mission and plan to unleash him on the Big Bash League later this year. 

Earlier this week Renegades confirmed Mohammad Nabi had also signed up and on Thursday, the club announced on its website, 15-year-old Noor Ahmad, from Kabul, will also join their team. 

“We’ve been tracking Noor Ahmad closely for more than a year now and although he’s in the early stages of his career, he’s an exciting prospect and he has a few tricks that’ll make life difficult for batsmen,” Renegades Coach Michael Klinger said. 

Ahmad is a left-arm wrist-spinner who has earned high praise around the globe.

Ahmad earned a contract in the Caribbean Premier League earlier this year and won a T20 trophy under Mohammad Nabi’s captaincy in 2019.

“The Renegades fans and followers of the Big Bash may not know much about Noor at this stage but I can tell you, he is a very exciting talent who I feel has a big future in the game,” Nabi said.

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Khalilzad meets with Taliban’s Baradar, discusses increase in violence

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(Last Updated On: October 29, 2020)

US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad met with Taliban deputy leader Abdul Ghani Baradar in Doha on Wednesday night to discuss a range of issues relating to the Afghan peace process, including the high levels of violence. 

In a series of tweets by the Taliban’s Doha spokesman, Mohammad Naeem, Khalilzad was accompanied by US Forces Afghanistan commander General Scott Miller.

Naeem said the discussion centered around a number of issues and talks were held on the full “implementation of the whole articles of the agreement signed between the IEA [Taliban] and the US”.

He also said the release of remaining prisoners was discussed as was removing names of Taliban members from the US’ blacklist. 

According to him, the increase in hostilities was discussed and attributed the high levels of violence to a number of factors. He said the “humiliation of the martyrs’ bodies” was one reason, as was that of raids carried out against released prisoners and “their killing”. 

He also said, “offensives and the violation of the agreement overall were reckoned the causes that don’t lead the circumstances to a good direction.”

Khalilzad returned to Doha earlier this week to meet with negotiating teams in Doha to press both sides to immediately reduce the levels of violence that Afghan civilians are forced to bear. 

According to a statement issued on Wednesday by the US State Department: “Too many Afghans are dying. The sides urgently need an agreement on a reduction of violence leading to a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire.” 

“Along with international partners, Ambassador Khalilzad will press the two negotiating teams to accelerate their efforts and agree to a political roadmap that ends Afghanistan’s 40-year-long war. The sides must move past procedure and into substantive negotiations. American and international assistance remains available to all sides,” the statement read. 

Khalilzad meanwhile said in a series of tweets on Tuesday night that he returns “to the region disappointed that despite commitments to lower violence, it has not happened.”

“The window to achieve a political settlement will not stay open forever,” he said.

“Intransigence and a refusal to abandon animosity, embrace fellow citizens, and agree on a formula for political cooperation/competition underpin the ongoing war.”

Khalilzad said: “Afghans are dying at a high rate, and regional spoilers are using Afghans as cannon fodder for their illegitimate objectives.  Bloodshed must end.

“Afghans need to pivot to development instead of destruction, stability instead of chaos, forgiveness instead of vengeance, compromise instead of inflexibility,” he said.

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Bajwa warns Pakistan and Afghanistan ‘can’t afford chaos’

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(Last Updated On: October 29, 2020)

Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa said on Wednesday that Afghanistan and Pakistan could not afford the risk of lawlessness and chaos as such a situation would have catastrophic consequences for both countries.

Speaking during his visit to a hospital in Peshawar to visit victims of Tuesday’s bombing at a madrassa that killed at least seven people, including children, and wounded more than 100, Bajwa said that Afghan refugees in Pakistan should exercise caution about unfavorable elements so that they were not wittingly or unwittingly used in terrorist activities, Dawn News reported. 

He said Pakistan has always wanted peace in Afghanistan and would spare no effort to restore peace and stability in the country.

Bajwa also said Pakistan and Afghanistan had faced terrorism for the past two decades but that peace in both countries was intertwined.

Tuesday’s explosion happened as a prominent religious scholar was giving a special class about the teachings of Islam at the main hall of the Jamia Zubairia madrassa, police confirmed. 

Some Afghan students studying at the seminary were also among the wounded persons, officials said.

 

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