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Five countries call on Iran to provide explanation on downing Ukrainian plane

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(Last Updated On: January 8, 2021)

Ukraine, Afghanistan, Canada, Sweden, and the United Kingdom have called on Iran to urgently provide a full and comprehensive explanation on downing the Ukrainian International Airlines Flight 752 near Tehran a year ago. 

The five countries in a joint statement on Friday, marking the first anniversary of the “tragic downing” the Ukrainian jet, said that the plane was downed “by two Iranian military surface-to-air missiles near Tehran,” the statement said.

“We urgently call on Iran to provide a complete and thorough explanation of the events and decisions that led to this appalling plane crash, including concrete measures to ensure that it will never happen again,” the statement read. 

“Our countries will hold Iran to account to deliver justice and make sure Iran makes full reparations to the families of the victims and affected countries,” the statement noted.

“Today we honor the memory of those who perished and offer our sincere condolences to all who mourn the victims of the PS752 tragedy. We share the grief of the families, relatives, and friends who lost loved ones.”

On January 8, an Iranian air defense unit mistakenly shot down Flight 752 of the Ukrainian International Airlines shortly after take-off from Tehran en route to Kyiv. 

179 passengers and nine crew members were killed in the downing. The victims included 82 Iranians, 63 Iranian-Canadians, 11 Ukrainians, 10 Swedes, 10 Afghans, three Germans, and three British nationals.

The operator had mistaken the Boeing 737-800 with a cruise missile at a time when the air defense systems were at the highest level of alert following the United States’ earlier killing of prominent Iranian commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani.

This comes as late December, the Legal Department of the Office of Iran’s President’s Office announced that the country will pay $150,000 to each of the bereaved families of the victims of the Ukrainian plane.

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Russia-led bloc concludes drills near Afghan border to boost Tajik security

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(Last Updated On: October 24, 2021)

A Russia-led military exercise held over six days near the Tajik-Afghan border, designed to demonstrate Moscow stands ready to protect Dushanbe in the event of an incursion from the south, reached its conclusion on Saturday, Reuters reported.

Tajikistan’s relations with the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan [IEA] leadership in Kabul have been strained from the start and reports of troop build-up on both sides of the border have alarmed Moscow, which operates a military base in the former Soviet republic.

According to the report the exercise, carried out by the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), which also includes Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, involved over 4,000 troops as well as tanks, artillery and assault aircraft.

“This is the first time an event of this scale is being held,” Tajik Defence Minister Sherali Mirzo told reporters at the site.

CSTO Secretary General Stanislav Zas said the war games were aimed at showing “that no incursions into Tajikistan’s territory will be allowed,” adding “we will not leave Tajikistan alone in the face of danger.”

Millions of Tajiks live in Afghanistan, comprising its second largest ethnic group, and Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rakhmon has criticised the predominantly IEA for failing to set up an ethnically diverse cabinet.

The IEA has forged an alliance with an ethnic Tajik militant group seeking to overthrow Rakhmon, according to Russian media reports.

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Despite Doha deal mistrust between US and IEA still exists: Khalilzad

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(Last Updated On: October 23, 2021)

Zalmay Khalilzad, former US special envoy for Afghanistan, says that despite the signing of the February 2020 Doha agreement between the US and the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), there is still an “atmosphere of mistrust” between the two sides.

In an interview with an American media outlet, Khalilzad said that because of America’s distrust, they still need to monitor the IEA’s performance, despite their assurances.

“Well, as I have mentioned before, the main problem right now is that we don’t trust them [IEA]. So the important thing is that what they say should not be trusted. Because of American disbelief in what the Taliban (Islamic Emirate) say and do, especially in relation to terrorism, they need to monitor the group’s work.”

In response to the possibility of the IE not adhering to the principles of women’s rights and girls education, Khalilzad said that there could be a difference of opinion among the leaders of the Islamic Emirate on this matter.

“I think there is disagreement among the leaders of the Taliban (Islamic Emirate) regarding the education of girls; we cannot say that all the Taliban (Islamic Emirate) are of the same opinion. Currently, in three to four provinces of Afghanistan, school gates are open to girls above the sixth grade,” Khalilzad added.

His comments come just days after he stepped down as special envoy after leading the US team through the peace process with the IEA and the former government.

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Biden approves $976 million for refugees in US including Afghans

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(Last Updated On: October 23, 2021)

US President Joe Biden on Friday approved the use of up to $976.1 million from the United States Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund to meet unexpected urgent refugee and migration needs, including for additional relecations of individuals at risk “as a result of the situation in Afghanistan”.

In a memorandum to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Biden said it is important to the national interest to furnish assistance of an amount not to exceed $976.1 million for the purpose of meeting unexpected urgent refugee and migration needs to support Operation Allies Welcome and related efforts by the Department of State.

He said it is also to include additional relocations of individuals at risk as a result of the situation in Afghanistan and related expenses.

“Such assistance may be provided on a bilateral or multilateral basis as appropriate, including through contributions to international organizations and through funding to other nongovernmental organizations, governments, and United States departments and agencies.” he said.

The US evacuated at least 65,000 Afghans at the end of August, according to numbers provided by the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security.

The White House earlier said however that it was expecting to resettle up to 95,000 Afghans in the US, the majority of whom arrived by the end of September after spending time in third countries while being processed.

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