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Khalilzad encourages regional countries to back peace process

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(Last Updated On: July 25, 2020)

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, said in Washington on Friday it was time for Central Asian countries to encourage both the Afghan government and the Taliban to pursue peace as peace and stability will have a significant impact on the region. 

Speaking at a United States Institute of Peace online forum, Khalilzad said this was “a defining moment for Afghanistan and the region.”

What happens in Afghanistan will have a significant impact on the region, he said. 

He said now is the time for peace to be pursued in Afghanistan as peace will facilitate development, stability, trade and integration.

“The United States has been active on both tracks, the track of peace in Afghanistan and the track of regional integration, regional trade; and developing a common vision for regional development, security and prosperity between Central Asian countries and Afghanistan and between Afghanistan and South Asia starting with Pakistan,” he said. 

Khalilzad went on to state that this was “in the hope that ultimately over time Afghanistan can bring the Central Asian nations and the South Asian nations together for a common, glorious objective of a peaceful, prosperous and stable region.”

He said the US was very much committed to doing their part to achieve both objectives – the objective of peace and the objective of regional cooperation. 

He said the war in Afghanistan has been an obstacle to the potential of security, development and prosperity and it has been a huge burden on the people of Afghanistan, “who are yearning for peace”.

He also said the war has been a burden on the international community – especially the United States. 

But despite an agreement having been signed between the US and the Taliban in February, two issues stand in the way of Afghan-led peace talks. He said: “One is the issue of prisoners.”

The second issue is that of violence, he said. 

“Violence has been too high,” he said adding that the US has been working with both the government of Afghanistan as well as with the Taliban to encourage a reduction of violence by all sides. Too many Afghans are dying.”

He said the US is also delivering to the Afghan government and the Afghan security forces and is “consistent with the agreement signed with the Taliban.”

He said he hopes the levels of violence will reduce in the coming weeks. 

However, he stated that the number of Afghan security forces killed this year is between 35 and 40 percent less than last year for the same period. 

“The number of civilians killed is also significantly lower than for the same period compared to last year.”

Khalilzad also confirmed that since the signing of the US-Taliban agreement in February, no American or coalition soldier has been killed by the Taliban in Afghanistan. 

However, he said the US was not satisfied with the levels of violence, despite them being lower than last year. “We want further reductions,” he said. 

Meanwhile, the role of the region with regards to the peace process was also important, he said. 

Regional countries could help encourage the Afghan government and the Taliban to overcome challenges and help encourage compromises “on a political roadmap that can end the Afghan war”. 

He went on to state that regional countries could also help to sustain a peace agreement – once an agreement has been reached. 

With peace, economic development can take place, he said adding that the US was also currently working on an agreement between Afghanistan and Pakistan, with the help of the UK. 

He said this was in line with the peace process but also included the issue of broadening and developing further economic ties with Pakistan. 

 

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Gailani calls for Afghans to unite under the umbrella of Islam 

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(Last Updated On: October 20, 2020)

After weeks of waiting for progress around the Afghan peace talks that are currently underway in Doha, Hamid Gailani, the leader of the Mahaz-e-Milli Islami Afghanistan party on Tuesday called on all parties to the conflict to unite as Muslims and to form an interim government. 

Gailani called on both government and the Taliban to take steps consistent with what “the mighty Allah has said about peace”. Citing the Holy Quran, Gailani said “and peace is good”  and that “we should do good for the people.”

“We are both Afghan and Muslim and it is the Afghans and Muslims who are suffering on both ends, people who die or get wounded from any of the sides are both Afghan and Muslim.

“Brothers, let’s be united, jointly and with understanding and for the sake of Allah, get rid of this sedition and take steps toward peace, which has been favored by Allah,” said Gailani, who is the son of the late politician and respected religious leader Pir Sayed Ahmed Gailani. 

In reference to negotiations, Gailani suggested a shift in dynamics and said: “Both sides are plaintiff. In every (traditional) negotiation, religion/Sharia, national traditions, and international law, there is always a need for a third side in conflict resolution. Therefore, as I see it we have no option for solving the issue other than the formation of an interim administration, in which all sides will have representation and agreed by all, and steps towards peace be taken in light of it.”

“Then a national government, according to the wishes of people and with the participation of all sides based on national consensus, be formed so that the seditious war comes to an end.”

Gailani is yet another voice calling for an end to the ongoing war – a war that has lasted for almost 40 years and one which the majority of stakeholders, including foreign partners and neighboring countries agree that there is no military solution. 

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Pompeo to meet with Armenian and Azeri foreign ministers

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(Last Updated On: October 21, 2020)

Armenia and Azerbaijan’s foreign ministers will meet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington on Friday in a bid to end the conflict that erupted between the two countries last month. 

Reuters reported on Tuesday that Armenia and Azerbaijan had both confirmed the meeting. 

The US State Department did not immediately comment but the planned meetings suggest Washington is stepping up efforts to calm a conflict that has killed hundreds of people since September 27. 

Russia has tried to mediate over the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute but two ceasefires brokered in Moscow this month have not ended the fighting. 

Reuters stated that Armenia and Azerbaijan confirmed intense fighting in and around Nagorno-Karabakh on Tuesday and that fears have been raised that regional powers Turkey and Russia could be sucked into a wider conflict. 

 

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Rashid Khan appeals for more Tests against cricket’s elite

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(Last Updated On: October 20, 2020)

Star cricketer Rashid Khan has appealed to cricket bodies to give Afghanistan the chance to play more tournaments against leading cricket teams in order to improve their game. 

“To become a big player you have to play against the best,” Rashid told the TMS does the IPL podcast on Tuesday.

“When I came to the IPL at 17, I saw the players, their workouts and fitness, the net sessions and I realized how much work I needed to do to be much better and more consistent.

“We have played against Australia twice in five years – in the two World Cups – and it’s the same with England and New Zealand.

“Hopefully we get some games against them and the rest of the players get the same opportunity to get better.”

Rashid also said that Afghanistan’s rise into cricket’s top tier took him by surprise but said how proud he was.

“I feel so proud, coming from Afghanistan and being on this stage. It’s a dream for me, sometimes I think where I was five or six years ago and where I am now, it’s something very special for me,” Rashid said.

“When I was watching other leg-spinners a few years back, I would never dream that sometime in the future I will be someone else’s role model,” he said.

Since being afforded full membership to the ICC and associated Test status, Afghanistan has played just four Test matches, against the West Indies, Ireland and Bangladesh. 

Australia, England, South Africa and New Zealand, the first four members of the Test cricket family, are yet to welcome Afghanistan into the fold in competition.

 

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