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T20 World Cup regional qualifiers postponed due to COVID-19

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(Last Updated On: March 18, 2021)

The International Cricket Council (ICC) on Thursday announced that three ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Qualifiers in Africa and Asia have been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

According to a statement issued by the world cricket body, the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Asia A Qualifier and Men’s T20 World Cup Sub Regional Africa A and B Qualifiers have been postponed.

The ICC U19 Men’s Cricket World Cup Africa Division 2 Qualifier also postponed due to the pandemic.

According to the ICC, all other Africa qualifying events rescheduled due to calendar congestion.

The Asia A Qualifier which is two steps away from the Men’s T20 World Cup 2022 was due to be hosted between 3 and 9 April 2021 involving Bahrain, Kuwait, Maldives, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. This has now been postponed and will be played in Kuwait between 23 and 29 October 2021.

The decision was taken to postpone due to new restrictions being put in place by several participating countries to suspend sporting activities to limit the spread of the new COVID-19 variants therefore giving no opportunity for teams to sufficiently train, the statement read. 

The other contributing factor was the extensive quarantine requirements for the visiting teams on their return to their respective countries.

The ICC U19 Men’s Cricket World Cup Asia Division 2 has been cancelled as Thailand are unable to host due to COVID-19 restrictions and there is no other suitable hosting option. Bhutan, Hong Kong, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and Thailand were confirmed to participate in the Division 2 event. 

Oman and Singapore have now been promoted to the U19 Men’s CWC Asia Qualifier scheduled in September in the United Arab Emirates, as a result of both teams having the best records in the previous five editions of the U19 Men’s CWC qualifiers.

ICC Head of Events, Chris Tetley said: “As part of the ICC’s comprehensive contingency planning process we have decided to postpone three Men’s T20 World Cup 2022 qualifying events and the Africa U19 Men’s Cricket World Cup Division 2 due to COVID-19. With a combination of restrictions in place in some participating countries limiting the opportunity for team preparation, as well as ongoing quarantine requirements and travel restrictions, there was no other option but to postpone and reschedule the events.

“Unfortunately, due to there being no suitable options to stage the event within the necessary timelines, we have taken the difficult decision to cancel the U19 Men’s CWC Asia Division 2 Qualifier. As a result, Oman and Singapore are promoted to the U19 Men’s CWC Asia Qualifier on the basis of their performances in the five previous editions of the event.

“In addition, we have also rescheduled the Men’s and Women’s T20 World Cup Africa Qualifiers and confirmed the dates for the U19 Men’s Cricket World Cup Africa Qualifier to ease calendar congestion and to provide the best opportunity for qualification to be determined on the field of play.

“We will continue to monitor and assess all events across our pathway structures with the ICC’s priority continuing to be to protect the well-being of players, coaches, officials and fans,” he said.

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Khalilzad wraps up 4-day trip to Turkey ahead of Summit

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(Last Updated On: March 30, 2021)

Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad has wrapped up a four-day visit to Turkey to discuss the upcoming Istanbul Summit on the Afghanistan peace process.

In a statement issued by the US Embassy in Turkey, the planned Istanbul Summit “is meant to help Afghan negotiators accelerate their efforts to end the war in Afghanistan and agree to a political settlement and a permanent ceasefire.”

The conference will complement peace talks currently ongoing in Doha, the statement read.

Khalilzad, who was in Turkey from March 26 to 29, met with a number of Turkish officials during this time, including Presidential Advisor Ibrahim Kalin, and Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal.

According to the embassy’s statement, American and Turkish officials consulted on the timing, format, and overall objectives and agenda of the conference to ensure that it will be well prepared and organized. 

“They agreed that an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned conference, supported by high-level attendance from the international community, provides the best means to accelerate the peace process. 

“They also agreed to urge the Afghan parties to prepare for constructive participation in this conference.”

This comes after Abdullah Abdullah, the chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR), said last week he hopes “tangible progress will be made towards a peace settlement at the Istanbul meeting”.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview, Abdullah said the presence of decision-makers expected to attend the meeting needs to be utilized to push to accelerate the settlement of issues in Afghanistan.

“There have been a lot of discussions between both sides in the past few months in Doha. The Doha process will continue and then we have the Istanbul meeting. The Istanbul meeting will be held at a high level.

“There will be top leaders of Afghanistan and Taliban — that’s how it is anticipated,” Abdullah said.

He also urged that the Istanbul opportunity should not be used to give speeches; instead, it should focus on working for tangible progress.

“The final, final, final agreement, of course, it takes time, but we should at least agree on few principles. And an agreement on a ceasefire will be very, very important,” Abdullah added.

Anadolu reported that Abdullah said it’s time to move beyond the US-Taliban deal, which stipulates the May 1 deadline for the withdrawal of foreign troops, and stated it was time to forge an agreement directly between the Afghan government and the Taliban. 

He also stated the Taliban’s readiness to move ahead would be tested in the coming days.

“Eventually, it has to be a comprehensive agreement between us, there is something between the US and the Taliban, but eventually, we need to agree. The readiness of the Taliban remains to be seen. It will be tested before the meeting in Turkey,” Abdullah told Anadolu.

No date for the Istanbul Summit has yet been confirmed but it is widely expected that it will take place early next month. 

 

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Pakistan’s FM to attend Heart of Asia summit

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(Last Updated On: March 29, 2021)

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi will attend the 9th Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process ministerial meeting in Dushanbe, Tajikistan this week. 

According to Pakistan’s foreign office, Qureshi will deliver a statement “highlighting Pakistan’s positive contributions to the Afghan peace process and its support for Afghanistan’s development and connectivity within the regional framework.” 

Qureshi is also expected to hold consultations with regional and international partners, including Tajik leaders. 

The Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process comprises 15 participating countries, 17 supporting countries and 12 supporting regional and international organizations.

Members of the process are Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Turkey.

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US and NATO partners will exit Afghanistan ‘together’: Blinken

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(Last Updated On: March 29, 2021)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday that American forces will only withdraw from Afghanistan in coordination with their NATO allies.

“We’ve been very clear, and NATO has been very clear, that the approach that we’re taking to this is we went in together, we’ve adapted to circumstances together and we will come out together when the time is right,” Blinken said in an interview with CNN.

“And what we’re focused on now is looking at the May 1 deadline.”

“One of the things that was important was not only to share our thinking as we’re going through this review, including the May 1 deadline but to listen, to hear from our partners who are so invested: their ideas, their thoughts, their analysis.”

With only weeks away from the May 1 troop withdrawal deadline, signed between the US and Taliban in Doha last year, Washington is still reviewing the deal although President Joe Biden said on Wednesday at a press conference that the date would be “hard to meet” for “tactical reasons”.

However, he also said that he does not expect US troops to remain in Afghanistan beyond 2022.

The US currently has a reported 2,500 troops in the country but the New York Times said in a recent article that the figure was closer to 3,500. NATO meanwhile has about 7,000 troops stationed in Afghanistan, bringing the total number of foreign troops to around 10,000. 

Blinken told CNN: “There are actually more European forces in Afghanistan right now than there are American, so they’re deeply invested in this with us, and they’ve been shoulder to shoulder with us from the very start.” 

“It was also very important to try to accelerate the diplomacy because ultimately everyone recognizes that there is no military solution to Afghanistan,” he said.

“There has to be some kind of political settlement, and it has to be a settlement reached by the Afghans themselves.”

This comes after the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad departed for Turkey on Thursday to resume negotiations on the peace process.

“Ambassador Khalilzad will build on recent efforts by regional and international partners to encourage two Afghan parties to accelerate their negotiations to end the conflict,” the State Department said.

“He will engage the two sides on their preparatory efforts for talks on a political settlement that produces a permanent ceasefire and a durable and just peace.

“He will also meet with stakeholders to discuss how the region and international community can facilitate talks between the sides.”

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