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Russia-led bloc holds large-scale drills near Tajik-Afghan border

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(Last Updated On: October 18, 2021)

A Russia-led post-Soviet security bloc started its largest military drills near the Tajik-Afghan border in years on Monday amid cross-border tensions ahead of talks between Afghanistan’s new Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) leaders and major regional powers, Reuters reported.

Unlike Afghanistan’s other northern neighbours who have de facto acknowledged the IEA leadership and started building working relationships with Kabul, Tajikistan has refused to recognise the IEA and there are reports of troop build-ups on both sides of the border.

According to the report the exercise carried out by the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) will involve over 5,000 servicemen, more than half of them Russian soldiers, Russia and Tajikistan’s defence ministries said.

The six-day drills follow a series of smaller-scale exercises held in the vicinity of the Afghan border by Russia and its Central Asian allies in August and September.

Russia is worried about the possibility of Islamist militants infiltrating the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, which Moscow views as its southern defensive buffer, Reuters reported.

Moscow operates a military base in the former Soviet republic and has reassured Dushanbe it would assist it in the event of any cross-border intrusion.

A high-level IEA delegation is set to visit Moscow this week for talks that will also involve China, Pakistan, India and Iran, although a senior Russian official has been reported as saying he did not expect any breakthrough.

Zamir Kabulov, President Vladimir Putin’s special representative on Afghanistan, also said officials from Russia, the United States, China and Pakistan would meet separately in Moscow on Tuesday to come up with a united position on the changing situation in Afghanistan.

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IEA calls on former govt officials and ex-politicians to return home

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(Last Updated On: November 28, 2021)

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) has called on former government officials and members of the political opposition to return to the country.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, who officially assumed duties on Sunday, said that former officials have the right to live as normal citizens in Afghanistan.

“We are in touch with all opposition [members]. We have urged them to return as Afghans; but should not expect to be appointed as a minister again,” Stanikzai said.

He has also called on foreign countries to reopen their embassies in Kabul.

“Their (foreign countries) ambassadors [for Afghanistan] are present in Qatar and opened embassies there, they (ambassadors) live in hotels and are in contact with us in order to have negotiations with us on various issues,” he noted.

Meanwhile, a high-level delegation led by Acting Foreign Minister Mawlavi Amir Khan Muttaqi is in Doha for talks with the EU and the United States.

Mohammad Naeem, a spokesman for the IEa’s political office in Qatar, told Ariana News that talks with the US delegation would begin on Monday.

The release of Afghanistan’s frozen assets and the reopening of embassies in Kabul and humanitarian aid are the main topics of the talks.

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New coronavirus variant Omicron keeps spreading, Australia detects cases

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(Last Updated On: November 28, 2021)

The new Omicron coronavirus variant kept spreading around the world on Sunday, with two cases detected in Australia, even as more countries tried to seal themselves off by imposing travel restrictions.

Health officials in Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, said two passengers who arrived in Sydney from southern Africa on Saturday evening had tested positive for the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, Reuters reported.

Both people were asymptomatic, fully vaccinated and in quarantine, NSW Health said. Another 12 passengers from southern Africa were also in 14 days of hotel quarantine, while around 260 other passengers and aircrew have been directed to isolate.

The Australian cases were the latest indication that the variant may prove hard to contain. First discovered in South Africa, it has since been detected in Britain, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Botswana, Israel and Hong Kong. Austria was investigating a suspected case on Sunday.

The discovery of Omicron, dubbed a “variant of concern” last week by the World Health Organization, has sparked worries around the world that it could resist vaccinations and prolong the nearly two-year COVID-19 pandemic.

Omicron is potentially more contagious than previous variants, although experts do not know yet if it will cause more or less severe COVID-19 compared to other strains.

Many countries have imposed a wave of travel bans.

In the most far-reaching effort to keep the variant at bay, Israel announced late on Saturday it would ban the entry of all foreigners and reintroduce counter-terrorism phone-tracking technology to contain the spread of the variant.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the ban, pending government approval, would last 14 days. Officials hope that within that period there will be more information on how effective vaccines are against Omicron.

Many countries have imposed or are planning restrictions on travel from southern Africa. The South African government denounced this on Saturday as unfair and potentially harmful to its economy – saying it is being punished for its scientific ability to identify coronavirus variants early.

In Britain, where two linked cases of Omicron identified on Saturday were connected to travel to southern Africa, the government announced measures to try to contain the spread, including stricter testing rules for people arriving in the country and requiring mask wearing in some settings.

The German state of Bavaria also announced two confirmed cases of the variant on Saturday. In Italy, the National Health Institute said a case of the new variant had been detected in Milan in a person coming from Mozambique.

Although epidemiologists say travel curbs may be too late to stop Omicron from circulating, many countries – including the United States, Brazil, Canada, European Union nation

Hanafi says that during 20 years of occupation there are 5 million addicts, among them 1 million are women and children.

Hanafi says that if TAPI project is implemented, Afghanistan will earn annually around $1 billion dollars through its transit rights.

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Cold and without shelter, migrants in northern France have narrow options

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(Last Updated On: November 28, 2021)

NGO workers and independent volunteers tended to migrants in a makeshift camp in Loon-Plage on Saturday, as the cold weather posed greater risks to their health.

Many migrants remained undeterred to cross the English Channel to Britain despite a recent dinghy capsizing that claimed the lives of 27.

“What happened last week, is the result of the pressure on exiled people which makes them take all kinds of risks and try to cross to Britain, whatever the weather. Because living here is simply impossible,” Salam NGO worker Pascaline Delaby told Reuters.

Seventeen men, seven women and three teenagers died on Wednesday (November 24) when their dinghy deflated in the Channel, one of many such risky journeys attempted in small, overloaded boats by people fleeing poverty and war in Afghanistan, Iraq and beyond.

A makeshift camp with tents has formed in Loon-Plage, near the site of a recently dismantled larger encampment in Grande-Synthe. Here, exposed to the elements, migrants gathered around fires, some wrapped in blankets.

When volunteers arrive, they queue for warm clothing, food, or a cup of coffee or tea.

Others received medical care from NGO workers treating wounds stemming from walking over long distances or the bitter cold.

“It’s a great concern to us that it’s getting colder, especially with people being evicted through the winter,” said First Aid Support Team NGO worker Helen Roberts.

She added that the cold weather also increased the risks of diseases such as pneumonia.

French authorities routinely dismantle migrant camps along the coast in an effort to discourage migrants from coming and attempting the crossing to Great Britain.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin is convening his counterparts from Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and the EU in Calais on Sunday (November 28), to tackle the migrant crisis.

UK Home Minister Priti Patel was disinvited to the meeting, after British Prime Minister Borish Johnson poster on Twitter a letter addressed to French President Emmanuel Macron, in which he insisted that France agree on joint patrols on its shores and consent to taking back the migrants that make it to Britain.

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