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Khalilzad in Kabul for talks ahead of Istanbul Summit

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(Last Updated On: April 10, 2021)

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad has arrived in Kabul for talks with government leaders, including the chairman of the High Council for Naitonal Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah.

Khalilzad’s visit comes ahead of the Istanbul Summit which is scheduled to start later this month.

According to a source, Khalilzad will discuss the latest developments around the peace process with high-ranking leaders and the peace proposal expected to be shared by the Afghan Republic at the Turkey conference.

Khalilzad is also expected to meet with President Ashraf Ghani.

The US-proposed and UN-led summit will see Afghan government leaders, politicians and Taliban representatives, along with international stakeholders discuss a roadmap to a political settlement in the country.

No official date has been announced for the summit but some sources have said it could start on April 16.

Ghani, Abdullah and a number of politicians have meanwhile been working on a peace proposal to be presented at the summit.

Over the past week, the HCNR’s leadership committee worked to combine proposals from various entities so that a single plan can be presented in Istanbul.

In an interview with the BBC on Thursday, First Vice President Amrullah Saleh confirmed the Afghan Republic will present a single plan at the summit.

Saleh said the Republic’s plan, which includes early elections, stipulates that incumbent president Ashraf Ghani will not run for presidency.

Saleh said the Afghan government also wants regional and international guarantees for peace and assurances that no deals are made that gives one group all the power.

Saleh said the Republic’s peace plan is comprehensive.

COVID-19

Rights watchdog warns of looming COVID crisis

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(Last Updated On: June 12, 2021)

Amnesty International has called on the Afghan government to address oxygen shortages and procure an adequate amount of COVID-19 vaccines and other essential medical supplies with the support of the international community.

“Afghanistan’s COVID-19 case numbers have been steadily increasing and these latest figures are of grave concern. It’s clear that the country has been hit by the third wave of COVID-19 and without urgent international support to contain this surge, the situation could quickly spiral out of control, with existing shortages of life-saving supplies posing serious challenges,” said Zaman Sultani, South Asia Researcher at Amnesty International.

The organization stated that Afghanistan’s COVID-19 case numbers have been steadily increasing and that these latest figures are of grave concern.

According to the Public Health Ministry (MoPH), 973 people tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, bringing the total infections to 79,861 people in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, 67 COVID-19 patients have died in the same period, the ministry said.

Amnesty International’s Sultani stated: “At the same time, Afghanistan’s vaccination drive has also been held up due to supply shortages. We have seen a similar situation unfolding in Nepal and India and one of the main lessons is to learn from their mistakes and be prepared for the worst before it’s too late.”

Highlighting the lack of preparation by the Afghan government to fight the Coronavirus, Amnesty International said that “more than a year into the pandemic, the government’s emergency preparedness remains inadequate.”

According to the Ministry of Public Health, Afghanistan currently has only around 2,000 ventilators and 1,063 hospital beds dedicated to treating patients with COVID-19 – this for 39 million people. According to MoPH, the country only has 1,500 ICU beds.

“The lack of emergency preparedness and the state of Afghanistan’s public health infrastructure means the country is not equipped to deal with the type of surge we have seen elsewhere in the region. Afghanistan must make diagnostics widely accessible to effectively detect outbreaks and proactively address an imminent outbreak of cases,” said Sultani.

The organization noted that the current wave poses an even greater risk of infection for Afghanistan’s four million internally displaced people (IDPs), who are living in overcrowded conditions, with insufficient access to water, sanitation, and health facilities.

“During this crisis, the Afghan government must ensure that IDPs can access healthcare, sanitation, and clean water and develop a plan that prioritizes vaccinating IDPs, whose living conditions leave them extremely vulnerable to a highly infectious virus like COVID-19,” Sultani added.

This comes as a shipment of COVID-19 vaccines donated by China arrived in Kabul on Saturday amid the surge in infections, the Presidential Palace (ARG) said in a statement.

According to the statement, the Chinese government has donated 700,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccines to Afghanistan.

The much-needed vaccines comes as the country has been hit by a third wave of the virus, which has raised concerns among officials.

Addressing a ceremony marking the arrival of the vaccines, President Ashraf Ghani stated “vaccines are a gift of life, and we thank China for its assistance.”

Chinese Ambassador to Kabul Wang Yu, meanwhile, assured Ghani of China’s further support to Afghanistan to fight the pandemic.

Afghanistan, so far, has administered 968,000 doses of AstraZeneca, which were donated by the Indian government, and COVAX.

The MoPH stated that 280,000 members of Afghan security forces, more than 120,000 doctors and health workers, and 560,000 civilians have been vaccinated so far.

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Soccer-Italy put on a show with win over Turkey in Euro 2020 opener

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(Last Updated On: June 12, 2021)

Italy kicked off the European Championship in emphatic style on Friday as they delivered a commanding performance to sweep past toothless Turkey 3-0 in the Stadio Olimpico and stamp their early authority on Group A.

After a goalless first half, an own goal and strikes by Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne were just reward for the home side, who played with relentless positivity from the start.

Their dispiriting failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup looked a distant memory as they stretched their unbeaten run to 28 matches in a buoyant atmosphere.

They were helped by a flat display from Turkey, who lost their fifth consecutive opening match of a European Championship finals and barely mustered a worthwhile attack all night.

“It was important to start well here in Rome and it is a joy for us and for all the Italians,” said coach Roberto Mancini.

“We produced a good performance and I think we satisfied everyone, for the fans and all the Italians watching. (But) there are six games to go and there are a lot of good teams.”

Switzerland and Wales, who meet in the group’s second game in Baku on Saturday, always knew Italy were the group favourites but the size of their task has suddenly looked somewhat bigger.

After a build-up featuring a spine-tingling rendition of Nessun Dorma by opera singer Andrea Bocelli – channelling thoughts of Italia ’90 – a spectacular fireworks display and a typically raucous rendition of Italy’s national anthem, the 16,000-strong crowd was in fine voice by kick-off.

They were given plenty to cheer too as Italy made all the early running against a Turkish team happy to sit deep and invite pressure.

However, Mancini’s side were left frustrated in their efforts to break through the wall of red shirts.

Giorgio Chiellini had a header tipped over with a spectacular one-handed save by Ugurcan Cakir and Immobile nodded a cross wide as Italy went in at the break with 14 attempts to none from Turkey – but without a goal.

They kept probing and their patience was rewarded when Berardi fired a cross into the six-yard box where Demiral chested the ball into the net – the first time in a European Championship that the tournament’s opening goal was an own goal.

The ever-dangerous Leonardo Spinazzola had a shot beaten away and Manuel Locatelli’s low effort was palmed wide before Immobile doubled Italy’s lead by pouncing on Cakir’s parry from another Spinazzola effort to neatly knock in the rebound.

The Azzurri’s dominance was rewarded again when Immobile threaded a pass to Insigne, who placed a precise finish into the bottom corner with 11 minutes remaining.

It marked the first time Italy had scored three goals in a match at the Euros at their 39th attempt and capped a perfect start.

Mancini had told his players they should enjoy themselves and seek to entertain and that was exactly what they did for a jubilant home crowd.

There was only gloom in the visiting camp as veteran coach Senol Gunes, who led Turkey to third place at the 2002 World Cup, apologised for the performance.

“I was expecting a better game, and I am disappointed and we are sorry,” he said. “Italy totally controlled the game.”

On June 16, Italy face Switzerland in Rome and Turkey take on Wales in Baku in the second round of Group A games.

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COVID-19

Kabul takes delivery of COVID-19 vaccines from China

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(Last Updated On: June 12, 2021)

A batch of COVID-19 vaccines donated by China arrived in Kabul amid a surge in infections, the Presidential Palace (ARG) said in a statement.

According to the statement, the Chinese government has donated 700,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccines to Afghanistan.

The much-needed vaccines come as the country has been hit by a third wave of the virus, which has raised concerns among officials.

Addressing a ceremony marking the arrival of the vaccines, President Ashraf Ghani stated “vaccines are a gift of life, and we thank China for its assistance.”

Chinese Ambassador to Kabul Wang Yu, meanwhile, assured Ghani of China’s further support to Afghanistan to fight the pandemic.

Afghanistan, so far, has administered 968,000 doses of AstraZeneca, which were donated by the Indian government, and COVAX.

The MoPH stated that 280,000 members of Afghan security forces, more than 120,000 doctors and health workers, and 560,000 civilians have been vaccinated so far.

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