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Peace talks a way to find ‘political formula’ to end war: Khalilzad

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(Last Updated On: September 13, 2020)

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad said Sunday the  start of the intra-Afghan talks is a new beginning for the Afghan people and a way to “find a political formula for ending the war that could lead to a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire.”

In an interview with Ariana News on the sideline of the long-waited intra-Afghan talks in Doha, Khalilzad said the Afghan and Taliban delegations need to agree on a reduction in violence.

This would then need to lead to a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire enabling the two sides to pursue talks in a peaceful environment, he said.

 “We demand violence be reduced and a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire to be reached as soon as possible,” Khalilzad said.

Referring to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s statement that America has no intention of forcing a political system on other countries, Khalilzad stated that US support for Afghanistan depends on a system in which Afghans can practice democracy.

“If people do not support the future system, if it was not democratic, the rights of the people would not be respected, women would be deprived of their rights, and then we would make our own decision,” he said. 

Regarding the troops drawdown in Afghanistan, the US envoy said that US forces would be reduced to 4,500 until the end of November; “Commander of US Forces said that with these soldiers they can accomplish their responsibilities and until the end of November we will monitor the situation.” 

Many critics have claimed that the urgency involved in withdrawing troops is a campaign move by US President Donald Trump ahead of the November elections. They state this is in keeping with his 2016 election promise of bringing home all American troops. 

Khalilzad meanwhile has been the driving force behind the peace talks process and has worked for two years to get both parties to the talks tables. 

In a briefing ahead of the historic start to the talks on Saturday, he said peace talks was a test for both sides – for the Taliban and for the Afghan government and raised the question of whether the two sides could “reach an agreement despite differences in terms of their visions for the future of Afghanistan?”

He pointed out that the peace talks process had reached an important juncture but that there are difficulties and significant challenges in the way of reaching an agreement.

However, the US was prepared to assist if needed, he said, adding that this phase is a new stage in the diplomacy path to peace. 

Khalilzad stated that from now on the process is Afghan-owned and Afghan-led and that there will be no foreign mediators nor facilitators when the sides hold their talks. 

He also said that in light of upcoming elections in the US, he was hoping that progress would have been made regarding negotiations by that time.

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Gov’t expresses concern over Armenia, Azerbaijan clashes

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(Last Updated On: September 28, 2020)

Afghanistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday expressed its concerns over the ongoing clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. 

The ministry said in a statement that the Nagorno-Karabakh region has been recognized internationally as a part of Azerbaijan and as such Afghanistan calls for the end to clashes and “supports the efforts by the people and government of Azerbaijan and other nations of the world in this regard”. 

“Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan calls for re-establishing the ceasefire and resolving the region’s long-standing crisis peacefully,” the statement read. 

At least 21 people were killed on Monday in a second day of heavy clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan that reportedly involved airpower, missiles and heavy armor.

The confrontation between the two former Soviet republics has rekindled concern over stability in the South Caucasus, a corridor for pipelines carrying oil and gas to world markets.

Any move to all-out conflict could drag in major regional powers Russia and Turkey, Reuters reported. 

Moscow has a defense alliance with Armenia, while Ankara backs its ethnic Turkic kin in Azerbaijan.

Majority Christian Armenia and mainly Muslim Azerbaijan have come to blows periodically in their decades-long conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, a breakaway region that is inside Azerbaijan but run by ethnic Armenians.

Armenia’s parliament condemned what it said was a “full-scale military attack” by Azerbaijan on Nagorno-Karabakh that was receiving Turkey’s help, adding that Ankara’s involvement could risk destabilizing the region. Azerbaijan denied its ally Turkey was taking part in the fighting.

 

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India’s COVID-19 caseload now over six million mark

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(Last Updated On: September 28, 2020)

India’s confirmed coronavirus tally has bypassed the six million mark with another 82,170 cases reported in the past 24 hours. 

The health ministry reported that the COVID-19 caseload was now at 6,074,703.

At least 1,039 deaths were also recorded in the same period, taking total fatalities up to 95,542.

New infections in India, the world’s second-most populous country, are currently being reported faster than anywhere else in the world and are expected to surpass the US tally, which is at 7.1 million, within the next few weeks. 

According to Johns Hopkins University data, almost one in every three new infections reported in the world and one in every five reported coronavirus deaths came from India.

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Abdullah hopes Pakistan visit will ‘open new chapter’ in relations

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(Last Updated On: September 28, 2020)

Abdullah Abdullah, Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, said early Monday morning his visit to Islamabad will prove a unique opportunity for Afghanistan and Pakistan to exchange views on the intra-Afghan negotiations. 

In a post on Twitter, Abdullah said “I hope this visit will open a new chapter of mutual cooperation at all levels, especially on achieving a lasting and dignified peace in Afghanistan.”

He also confirmed he will leave for Islamabad Monday, for an official three-day visit and will be accompanied by a high-level Afghan delegation. 

Abdullah said he will meet with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, President Arif Alvi, the Chairman of the Senate, the Speaker of the National Assembly, the Foreign Minister and other dignitaries.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry said on Sunday, Abdullah will also deliver a key-note address at the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad.

This will be Abdullah’s first visit to Pakistan as head of the HCNR and the first since 2008. 

“The visit will provide an opportunity for wide-ranging exchange of views on the Afghan peace process and strengthening of Pakistan-Afghanistan bilateral relations and people-to-people interaction,” Pakistan’s foreign ministry stated. 

“Pakistan attaches high importance to its fraternal ties with Afghanistan, rooted deep in shared history, faith, culture, values and traditions. 

“Pakistan fully supports all efforts for peace, stability and prosperity of the Afghan people. The visit of Dr. Abdullah Abdullah will contribute to further strengthening amity, brotherhood and close cooperation between the two countries,” read the statement.

 

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