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UN envoy optimistic about peace prospects in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: June 26, 2020)

The UN’s top envoy in Afghanistan said the country now has a unique opportunity to turn the corner to a brighter, more stable future after four decades of war.

Deborah Lyons via a video conference told the Security Council on Thursday that even as an unprecedented global pandemic threatens to unravel many of the hard-won socio-economic gains Afghanistan has made over the years, there is now a moment of “emerging hope.”

The UN envoy, who is the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, said she is “cautiously optimistic” that the talks between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban negotiation teams will start in the next few weeks in Doha. 

“As the two sides embark on what will likely be a long and complex series of talks, I have encouraged them to show the necessary flexibility and foresight, the commitment to peace and, most importantly, compassion for their people that will be needed to bring these negotiations to a successful conclusion,” she told the Security Council.

Lyons, who is also head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), described how the formal announcement of a three-day Eid ceasefire by the Taliban and the Government led to a welcome and much-needed reduction in violence. 

“A reduction in violence is essential to an environment conducive for peace talks and to pave the way for an eventual permanent ceasefire,” she stressed, telling the Security Council that the United Nations stands ready to support direct peace talks and noting that she has been in discussion with both sides to identify and address their needs, going forward.

The UN envoy described how she has engaged with partners from the region and beyond, and said she is confident that a constructive atmosphere for the peace process can be fostered. But at the same time as new opportunities for peace emerge, she said, COVID-19 is casting a shadow over daily life in Afghanistan.

“Under the leadership of the Afghan Government, the UN is supporting a coordinated response to fight this epidemic,” she said, pointing out how she is counting on the continued generosity of the international community to allow the United Nations to carry forward with the Afghan Government an essential response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to presenting an update on prospects for peace and the fight against COVID-19, Lyons highlighted developments in human rights and the humanitarian situation. She spoke about the harsh realities of life for many Afghans and the human cost of Afghanistan’s conflict, which continues to take a devastating toll on civilians, especially children.

In closing, Lyons stressed that COVID-19 is not just a health crisis. She called it a “multi-dimensional crisis impacting an already fragile country.” But by working together, she said, we can overcome COVID-19 and support Afghanistan at the beginning of its nascent peace process so that its people can finally achieve the lasting peace they deserve.

“The UN will continue to stand in partnership with the Afghan people through this time of unprecedented challenge and fragile hope,” she said. “The Afghan people will look to the guidance, to the support, and to the unity of this Council as they chart their way forward on their long road to peace.”

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Taliban should cut ties with Pakistan: Ghani

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(Last Updated On: January 22, 2021)

President Ashraf Ghani has called on the Taliban to cut ties with Pakistan.

Addressing a press conference on Thursday, Ghani stated that the Taliban should not have a safe haven in Pakistan either.

“One of the basic needs for peace in Afghanistan is that the Taliban should cut their ties with Pakistan. If they call themselves Afghans and want to be in Afghanistan; they should not have dual citizenships,” said Ghani.

Ghani also urged Pakistan to play its positive role in the ongoing talks in Doha.

“I urged PM of Pakistan to tell Taliban that there is no solution without a political settlement,” said Ghani.

The President has also criticized the interim government plan, emphasizing a democratic process for the power transfer.

Ghani stated that he will transfer power to the Taliban if they are elected by the people in the elections.

 “We hope for peace, but we are ready for every danger,” Ghani said.

This comes as the Afghan government peace negotiators are in Doha to discuss the agenda for the negotiations with the Taliban delegates.

Ghani, however, said that in the end, it is the people of Afghanistan who would decide the outcome of the negotiations.

Meanwhile, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Pakistan’s foreign minister, on Thursday called on Joe Biden, the US president to follow up on the current Afghan peace process and US troops’ withdrawal from the country.

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Pakistan calls on Biden to stick to US-Taliban deal

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(Last Updated On: January 22, 2021)

Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Pakistan’s foreign minister, on Thursday called on Joe Biden, the US president to follow up on the current Afghan peace process and US troops’ withdrawal from the country, reported Al Jazeera.

“I think they should realise there is an opportunity in Afghanistan and they should persevere with what was initiated and not reverse things,” said Qureshi quoted by Al Jazeera.

This comes as Intra-Afghan talks are continuing in the Qatari capital Doha but progress remains slow.

Under last year’s US-Taliban deal, all US troops are due to leave Afghanistan by April.

“We are concerned because we feel violence can vitiate the climate,” said Qureshi quoted by Aljazeera.

“Pakistan has done a lot, we have really bent backwards to create an environment to facilitate the peace process,” he said, while blaming “spoilers” for the violence, identifying them as internal Afghan players.

This comes as violence has been increased recently, with a surge in targeted attacks and bombings across the country for which the Afghan government has blamed the Taliban.

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NATO stands ready to adjust its presence in Afghanistan: Stoltenberg

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(Last Updated On: January 22, 2021)

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in a meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu reiterated NATO Support toward Afghan peace process, adding that NATO will address its training mission in Afghanistan in February.

Stoltenberg quoted by NATO website said that “whatever path we choose, it is important that we do so together, in a coordinated and deliberate way.”

NATO also support the Afghan peace process and said the organization stands ready to adjust its presence in Afghanistan.

 “NATO supports the Afghan peace talks and, as part of this process, stands ready to further adjust its presence,” said NATO, quoted by the website.

This comes as NATO had said they will continue Resolute Support mission (RS) mission in Afghanistan to train advice and assist Afghan forces.

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