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US peace envoy warns high levels of violence could derail peace process 

Ariana News

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(Last Updated On: October 19, 2020)

US special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad warned that “distressingly” high levels of violence could derail the peace process and the understanding that there is no military solution to the war in Afghanistan. 

In a series of tweets overnight Monday, Khalilzad appeared to have been responding to Sunday’s spat between the Taliban and the US Forces Afghanistan after the insurgent group accused the US of violating the Doha agreement by carrying out airstrikes in Helmand and Farah provinces last week. 

The US Forces Afghanistan responded not long after rejecting the claim and said they were within the terms of the agreement as they had been defending the Afghan security forces who had come under attack by the Taliban. 

The Taliban also issued a veiled threat in their statement and said: “All responsibility and consequences from the continuation of such actions shall fall squarely on the shoulders of the American side.”

Khalilzad meanwhile said in his Twitter statement: “Unfounded charges of violations and inflammatory rhetoric do not advance peace. Instead, we should pursue strict adherence to all articles of the US-Taliban Agreement and US-Afghanistan Joint Declaration and not neglect the commitment to gradually reduce violence.

“Continued high levels of violence can threaten the peace process and the agreement and the core understanding that there is no military solution. Violence today remains distressingly high in spite of the recent reaffirmation of the need for substantial reduction.

“Taliban attacks in Helmand, including on the provincial capital; Taliban attacks against Afghan security forces; & Taliban complaints of ANSF operations and coalition strikes led to a recent meeting in Doha.

“All sides agreed to decrease attacks and strikes and reduce violence and casualties. Although violence in Helmand has decreased, violence overall in the country remains high.

“Our expectation has been and remains that violence comes down and stays down.

“It was a focus of the Agreement we signed, further highlighted in connection with the releases of the last batch of prisoners and reaffirmed again in the most recent commitment all sides made to adhere to all aspects of the deal,” Khalilzad said. 

Reacting to the car bombing on Sunday in Ghor province that killed at least 13 people, Khalilzad stated: “Violence has stalked Afghans for far too long. It has robbed far too many Afghans of their loved ones. The tragedy in Ghor today is the most recent example.”

He said: “The belief that says violence must escalate to win concessions at the negotiating table is very risky. Such an approach can undermine the peace process and repeats past miscalculations by Afghan leaders.

“We must adhere to the letter and spirit of what was negotiated and the recent understanding. They provide a path to minimizing Afghan loss of life and protecting an historic opportunity for peace which must not be missed,” Khalilzad said.

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Iran’s plan to jail Afghan migrants sparks concern in Kabul

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(Last Updated On: November 29, 2020)

Concerns have been raised over Iran’s plan to impose prison terms of up to 25 years on anyone considered an “illegal migrant” in the country and of giving officials the go-ahead to fire on vehicles suspected of carrying asylum seekers, Arab News reported. 

If Iran’s parliament approves these proposed measures, as many as 2.5 million Afghans living in Iran could be affected. 

What has also added to concerns is that many Afghans do not have any identification documents such as passports, visas or residential permits, Arab News reported. 

“We are highly concerned about this. We hope that Iran will not resort to such a move,” Abdul Basit Ansari, an adviser for Afghanistan’s ministry of refugees, told Arab News.

“We can jointly work to solve this issue, and we insist on voluntary repatriation of Afghans,” he added.

This comes after Iran’s Sharq newspaper, citing the country’s Islamic Council, said recently that Iran’s parliament was working to “regulate illegal migrants” and would put its proposals up for approval “very soon.”

Arab News stated that under the plan those entering or living in Iran without a permit will be jailed for up to 25 years, and will face hefty fines and confiscation of property.

An Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hamid Tehzeb, said Kabul has conveyed its concerns to Iranian authorities through its ambassador in Tehran.

“There are serious efforts underway to deal with this issue through diplomatic channels,” Tehzeb told Arab News.

Experts accused Tehran of “taking advantage” of Kabul’s domestic issues.

“Iran is doing whatever it can to frighten or expel the refugees,” Fazl Rahman Orya, a political analyst, told Arab News.

Shafiq Hapal, another analyst, told Arab News that Iran’s move could be a result of a “larger fear” in Tehran that fighting will escalate in Afghanistan after foreign troops leave, forcing hundreds of thousands to seek refuge in Iran.

“I think Iran is making its preparations now to prevent a sudden flow of uncontrolled migration to Iran. It wants to frighten any Afghans who are thinking of escaping there,” he said.

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Afghan Republic’s team agrees ‘in principle’ to peace talks procedures 

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(Last Updated On: November 28, 2020)

The Afghanistan Republic’s peace negotiating team said on Saturday night that both sides have agreed in principle to the rules and procedures regarding talks going forward but that this does not mean the framework has been finalized. 

“The negotiation teams of both sides have ONLY agreed in principle to the 21 articles of the rules & procedures, with the exception of the introduction because it requires further discussion & clarification. Therefore in the joint meeting on Nov 17, 2020 in the presence … of the host country, it was decided that the rules & procedures will only be considered final once it is presented to the general meeting of both delegations & approved there,” the Afghan Republic’s statement read. 

“The IRoA (Islamic Republic of Afghanistan) has shared our understanding of the elements of the introduction with the other side (Taliban),” read the statement.

This statement followed soon after Naeem Wardak, the Taliban’s spokesman in Doha posted on Twitter that the “procedure” to take the intra-Afghan negotiations forward was finalized between the two sides on November 15. 

In a series of tweets Naeem said: “The procedure of Intra-Afghan negotiations between the negotiating teams was completed and finalized in 21 articles on the 15th of November 2020.”

He said this framework was then interpreted in the presence of the “host/facilitator country”, that being Qatar, two days later – on November 17. 

“A copy of it was handed over to the host/facilitator country after it was approved by both negotiating teams,” he tweeted.

This comes after reports first emerged around November 23 that there had been a breakthrough in stalled talks in Doha, which officially started on September 12. 

Sources said early this week that Afghanistan Republic’s chief negotiator Massoom Stanikzai and presidential peace advisor Salam Rahimi were in Kabul to discuss progress with President Ashraf Ghani. 

But both parties to the talks remained tight-lipped about any progress.

In fact, Presidential Palace spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said at a press conference on Wednesday that no progress had been made in Doha regarding peace talks.

Sediqqi said the Taliban’s demands contradict the Afghan Constitution but he did confirm that Stanikzai had been in Kabul.

Seddiqi said the republic’s negotiating team will hold discussions with the Taliban in respect of the Afghan Constitution and on the advice of the peace consultative Jirga.

Wednesday’s denial comes after some sources told Ariana News on condition of anonymity that Afghan leaders had approved some points that had been contested – leading to a breakthrough in the talks.

 

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Khamenei promises retaliation for killing of Iranian scientist

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(Last Updated On: November 28, 2020)

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Saturday Tehran would retaliate over the killing of the country’s top nuclear scientist, who the West claimed was heading up a secret nuclear weapons program for Iran. 

Khamenei said in a statement scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh had been killed “by brutal mercenaries”. 

“Two important issues should be seriously put on the agenda by all those involved, first, the pursuit of this crime and the definitive punishment of its perpetrators and commanders, and second, the pursuit of the martyr’s (Fakhrizadeh) scientific and technical efforts in all the areas in which he was involved. 

Khamenei who has said Tehran never sought nuclear arms and pledged in his statement to continue the work of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who died on Friday after gunmen ambushed him in his car near Tehran.

Reuters reported that the killing, which Iran’s president was swift to blame on Israel, threatens to spark a new Middle East confrontation in the final weeks of US President Donald Trump’s term.

It could also complicate any efforts by President-elect Joe Biden to revive a detente with Tehran that was forged when he was in Barack Obama’s administration. Trump pulled Washington out of the 2015 international nuclear pact agreed with Tehran.

Israel’s N12 news channel meanwhile said Israeli embassies around the world had been put on high alert after the Iranian threats of retaliation. 

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told a televised cabinet meeting that Iran would respond “at the proper time.”

“Once again, the evil hands of Global Arrogance and the Zionist mercenaries were stained with the blood of an Iranian son,” he said, using terms officials employ to refer to Israel.

Israel has declined to comment on the killing. The White House, Pentagon, US State Department and CIA also declined to comment, as did Biden’s transition team, Reuters reported.

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