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Taliban Formulates 10-Member Negotiating Team for Peace Talks: HPC

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(Last Updated On: December 14, 2018)

High Peace Council (HPC) says Taliban has formulated a 10-member negotiating team for peace talks with the Afghan government.

The direct talks between the U.S. and Taliban have raised hopes among many interested parties to ensure peace in war-torn Afghanistan.

Recently, the U.S. Special Envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad met NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels, where the North Atlantic Council expressed support for the U.S. efforts to promote an Afghan-led and owned peace process.

In early October, Khalilzad met with the Taliban representatives in Qatar and then met with the Afghan government officials in Kabul where he has asked both sides to come up with an authorized team of negotiators for peace talks.

Following the issue, Rahim Bek Yaqubi, a member of the HPC said that the Taliban has formulated a negotiating team which according to him, is comprised of five members from the armed group’s Qatar office and five more are the members who have been released from Guantanamo Bay in late October.

Yaqubi stressed that the face-to-face talks between the Taliban and the government negotiating teams were expected to take place after the end of Khalilzad’s third round of trips to the region.

However, the Taliban Spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid in a phone call with Ariana News rejected the issue as “baseless”.

This comes as some Afghan people and politicians have concerns that the past 16 years’ achievements in Afghanistan might get compromised in the negotiation process with the Taliban.

But President Ashraf Ghani on Thursday in a meeting in Herat province assured that the government would not conclude any peace deal behind closed doors. He insisted that every decision regarding peace will take place based on people’s will and the approval of the parliament.

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Loya Jirga urges govt to release prisoners in order to kick start peace talks

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(Last Updated On: August 8, 2020)

Afghanistan’s Loya Jirga, or grand council of tribal elders, community leaders, and politicians, on Saturday, urged the government to release the remaining 400 Taliban prisoners so as to move forward with intra-Afghan talks.

The Loya Jirga, called to determine the fate of the prisoners, convened Friday and wrapped up on Saturday. Over 3,200 delegates participated.

The delegates were split up into 50 working committees and discussed the prisoner release issue for two days.

Once each group had made their decision they submitted their recommendations to the Jirga’s administrative board.

All 50 committees recommended government free the 400 controversial prisoners.

Abdullah Abdullah, the head of the High Council of National Reconciliation and the chair of the Loya Jirga, said Saturday that the committees recommended the prisoners be released but that the Jirga would officially “announce the outcome tomorrow.”

“I congratulate all Jirga members divided into 50 working committees for promptly ending their free deliberations. I welcome their input and recommendations as part of this important consultative exercise as we compile & announce the outcome tomorrow,” Abdullah said in a tweet.

Meanwhile, Abdullah said that the direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban would begin three days after the end of the Jirga.

“Three days after the end of the jirga, Afghan talks will begin and we are ready to move this process forward properly to end the war in Afghanistan,” Abdullah said.

A readout of their conclusions, seen by Ariana News, indicates that these committees urged the international community, especially the United States, to guarantee the start of intra-Afghan negotiations and a comprehensive ceasefire for the release of prisoners.

In their recommendations, the committees recommended that the government and the High Council of National Reconciliation consider the following points regarding the release of the prisoners and the hoped-for intra-Afghan peace talks:

  1. To achieve lasting and dignified peace, the parties must show the necessary flexibility;
  2. Release 400 remaining Taliban prisoners so that there is no excuse to postpone peace talks;
  3. Unconditional ceasefire shall be established with the release of Taliban prisoners and the parties shall remain committed to it;
  4. Peace talks should begin as soon as possible;
  5. The formation of an all-inclusive national body for peace negotiations capable of defending the values and achievements of the last 19 years;
  6. Afghan-led peace talks should preferably be held in Afghanistan;
  7. The countries involved in the Afghan issue should stop supporting the Taliban and not escalate tensions;
  8. The Taliban should no longer carry out terrorist attacks under the name of ISIS (Daesh);
  9. Prisoners should be released on national and international bail so that they do not rejoin the battlefield;
  10. Guarantee from the international community from the start and success of the talks and the establishment of lasting peace in Afghanistan;
  11. Release prisoners of the country’s security forces in order to prevent the weakening of their national spirit;
  12. Decisively defend the republic and the achievements of the last 19 years in the peace negotiations;
  13. Defend the constitution, especially the second chapter of the constitution and the democratic system in negotiations;
  14. Protect civil liberties and rights enshrined in the Constitution, especially the rights and freedoms of women;
  15. Preserve freedom of speech and freedom of the press;
  16. Share the progress of peace talks with the people of Afghanistan during the talks;
  17. The government must obtain the consent of the families of war victims;
  18. Involve all different sections of society, especially women and youth in the peace negotiating team;
  19. The negotiating team must have the full capacity for dialogue;
  20. Peace agreements under the supervision and guarantee of the United Nations, major world and regional powers;

“All the members of the relevant committees emphasized that the people of Afghanistan have been making sacrifices for years. War has taken a heavy toll on us. To achieve peace and stability and to end the devastating phenomenon of war, we agree to release Taliban prisoners, provided that the international community guarantees the success of the talks and the establishment of lasting peace,” the chairmen of the committees said.

The chairmen added: “Agreeing to release Taliban prisoners does not mean forgiving their crimes. No individual or institution has the right to do so. But achieving peace and stability in the country is a national priority and a public necessity.

“Therefore, to facilitate the success of the peace talks, it is necessary to pave the way for the start of negotiations.”

After submitting the report of the working committees, Abdullah Abdullah, Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation and Chairman of the Grand Consultative Peace Jirga, meanwhile expressed his gratitude for the patience, comprehensive advice and constructive and comprehensive suggestions made by the members of the Jirga and said: “The High Council for National Reconciliation is very important and we will make great use of it in the negotiations.”

The Speaker of the Grand Consultative Peace Jirga expressed satisfaction with the successful completion of the working committees and said: “Afghanistan is at a critical and historic stage. It is a great success to understand the sensitivity of the situation and to give your advice in the light of the current situation and with the national interest in mind. However, the conditions are not favorable. But what definitely guarantees our victory is our unity.”

Meanwhile, some committees objected to the composition of the current negotiating team, urging the government to reconsider its make up and select new members for the team.

But sources close to the Taliban say that after the release of 400 prisoners, early talks are not possible and the demands of the parties involved have not been finalized.

Sayed Akbar Agha, a former member of the Taliban, said: “The Taliban are waiting for the release of 400 prisoners and the Taliban are ready for Afghan talks, but it is possible that other figures will join the government’s negotiating team and this will not be possible in a short time.”

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Belgian Van Aert edges Alaphilippe in tight Milan-Sanremo finish

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(Last Updated On: August 8, 2020)

Belgian Wout van Aert won the Milan-Sanremo ‘Monument’ classic, beating defending champion Julian Alaphilippe of France in a tight sprint finish after 305km on Saturday Reuters reported.

According to the report, the Team Jumbo-Visma rider Van Aert, who won the Strade Bianche classic last Saturday, was the only rider able to follow Alaphilippe’s brutal attack in the ascent to the Poggio, some seven km from the finish.

Australian Michael Matthews took third place.

The race was scheduled for mid-March but was postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

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‘Worried’ Afghan women appeal to female world leaders to help secure their rights

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(Last Updated On: August 8, 2020)

Afghan women have appealed to female world leaders to stand with them in order to protect women’s rights in Afghanistan as a political landscape shift looms. 

In an open letter to women world leaders, issued by Afghan Women’s Network, Afghan women said “we are writing to you because we are worried.”

They said in the letter that “so far, the talks have been a show of the strongmen in which mostly those who fought and killed our fellow citizens are talking.”

They stated that they are afraid their rights and freedoms are in danger of being compromised and that the way the talks process has been led shows an established disrespect for the rights and freedoms of Afghan women. 

“We are afraid that our hard-won gains are being jeopardized and eroded only for a short-term solution among these very strongmen. We are afraid of this visible pushback from all those who are part of this process,” the letter stated. 

Pointing out that so many simple things that women around the world take for granted, Afghan women are either deprived of or face losing after having worked so hard to achieve them over the past 19 years. 

These issues include having the right to earn a living and provide for their families to “every day little acts like leaving their house without fear of reprisal, taking a stroll in the park, and laughing with a friend in public.”

They stated in the letter that “these are some of the basic things we fear we will lose again. We cannot take a chance to lose what we have achieved with your help.”

Afghan women have said they know they have a long way to go to achieve equality for women in Afghanistan “but we, the women, cannot allow it to go back. We will continue to fight for and defend our rights and those of our children.”

Appealing to female world leaders, the letter states Afghan women desperately need the support of these leaders “who are in a position of influence on the future of Afghanistan.”

“We hope that you will speak for us and our desire to be respected as equal humans when your countries make their decisions on Afghanistan. 

“We hope you will speak for our desire for a peace that is just, inclusive, sustainable, and practical. We hope that you will stand with us and for women’s rights and a sustainable peace in Afghanistan. 

“As women leaders, we are certain that you will relate to us in wanting a sustainable peace and equal rights for all.”

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