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US-Taliban Talks Resume in Doha After Day Break

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(Last Updated On: May 4, 2019)

U.S. and Taliban representatives on Saturday resumed their talks after daybreak, but no breakthrough.

The sixth round of direct talks between the U.S. and Taliban representatives began on Wednesday, 1 May, in Doha, the capital of Qatar.

In October, U.S. and Taliban agreed in a draft on withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan in return for a Taliban guarantee that Afghanistan will not be used by militants to threaten the U.S. and the world.

In this round, the U.S. delegation is expected to focus on an intra-Afghan dialogue and negotiations, and a reduction in violence.

In an audio message, Taliban’s Chief Negotiator, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai says the group has suggested several options to the Americans to withdraw their forces from Afghanistan but there are different views within the U.S. administration.

Meanwhile, the U.S. and Taliban officials faced off on a series of tweets on twitter.

The U.S. Special Envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad said in a tweet on Friday, May 3, that he has told Taliban representatives in Qatar that it is time for the group “to put down arms, stop the violence, and embrace peace”.

Reacting to Khalilzad’s tweet, a Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on tweeter that the U.S. envoy should “forget about the idea of putting down our arms”.

Khalilzad responded back on Saturday, saying “laying down arms is the outcome of any peace process” and the U.S. and Afghan government “stand ready”.

However, a former Taliban official Sayed Akbar Agha told Ariana News that the two sides are still negotiating on forces withdrawal. He added the Taliban wants U.S. forces to withdraw from Afghanistan within six months while the U.S. officials insist on one year timetable.

At the same time, Fridoon Khwazon, a spokesman for the Office of Afghanistan’s Chief Executive says the Afghan government hopes this round of talks pave the way for the beginning of direct talks between the government and the Taliban to end the ongoing war in the country.

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Ghani and Pakistani PM discuss need for ceasefire

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(Last Updated On: September 26, 2020)

President Ashraf Ghani and Pakistan’s Prime Minister held a telephone conversation Friday where both parties agreed there was an urgent need for a ceasefire. 

In a statement issued by the Presidential Palace (ARG), government said Ghani and Khan discussed bilateral relations, the peace process, and a ceasefire in Afghanistan. 

Ghani also invited Khan to pay an official visit to Afghanistan. 

ARG quoted Khan as saying: “We fully support the establishment of a ceasefire in Afghanistan and thanked the President for his invitation.”

According to ARG, Khan will “visit Kabul in the near future.”

Pakistan’s Geo TV meanwhile reported that Pakistan would fully support the decisions that the Afghan people would take about their future, according to Khan.

The prime minister also underlined the importance Pakistan attaches to constructive engagement with Afghanistan, and to peace, stability, and prosperity of the Afghan people.

Geo TV also stated that the Chairman of the Afghan High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR), Abdullah Abdullah, would be visiting Islamabad next week.

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Khalilzad says Taliban unlikely to call a ceasefire until a deal is made

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(Last Updated On: September 26, 2020)

As the world continues to call for a reduction in violence in Afghanistan, US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said on Friday he did not think the Taliban would call for a ceasefire until an agreement between the two sides has been sealed. 

When asked about this in an interview with America’s PBS News Hour on Friday night, Khalilzad said: “I think you’re right that the Talibs will not accept a cease-fire, comprehensive and permanent, until there’s a political settlement,” adding however that this was not unprecedented in other conflicts in the past. 

In going forward and discussing a road map for peace, which might take into account an interim government, Khalilzad said there were various options the Afghan negotiating team and the Taliban have in front of them. 

“But it is for the Afghans to agree to a political road map. And the fact that they are sitting across the table from each other is unprecedented, that warring – Afghan warring parties have sat together.

“When the Soviets withdrew, before their withdrawal, there was no Afghan meetings. It was an agreement that Pakistan and the Afghan government signed with the US and USSR as guarantors. And ever since then, the warring Afghan parties have not sat together.”

“This is an extraordinary development in contemporary Afghan history,” he said.

Over the past few weeks, critics have raised their voices claiming the US was pushing Afghanistan and the Taliban together to sign a deal before the US elections in November. 

Questioned about whether he was under pressure by the White House or the US State Department to ensure progress was made by November 3, Khalilzad said he was not. 

“We would like the war to end as soon as possible. This is the expectation of the Afghan people. We have not set any artificial deadline for when these negotiations have to succeed. We are not directly involved in the negotiations. It’s Afghan-Afghan. They did not want a foreigner to be a mediator or a facilitator, to be in the room,” he said. 

Khalilzad said the Taliban had stated in Doha that the rights of minorities, such as the Shia community, would be respected and that there would be no discrimination. 

“But that’s still an unresolved issue in terms of an exact formulation and an agreement. We obviously support an agreement that respects the right of all Afghans, whether they belong to one sect or another, whether they’re men or women.”

On the issue of al-Qaeda, in terms of the February deal signed between the US and the Taliban, which had not yet cut ties with the terrorist organization, Khalilzad said Washington was holding the Taliban to that agreement. 

“And what we do is contingent, in terms of reduction of forces, on what they do. We have seen progress in terms of delivering on the commitment that they have made on terrorism, but that’s unfinished business. 

“And we will see in a couple of months, when we reached a number between 4,000 to 5,000 in terms of our troops. We will assess where they are.”

He said the US was very committed to ensuring Afghanistan could not be used as a platform to threaten the US and that Washington would “take measures necessary to protect the United States from potential terrorist threats in Afghanistan or from Afghanistan.”

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Australia Test against Afghanistan on hold due to COVID-19

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(Last Updated On: September 26, 2020)

Australia’s planned historic maiden Test against Afghanistan has become the latest victim of the global coronavirus pandemic, with the one-off match scheduled for later this year postponed until next year.

According to Cricket Australia (CA), complexities around international travel and quarantine requirements have also forced Cricket Australia to push back their proposed men’s ODI series against New Zealand until 2021-22.

Under the speculative schedule released by CA in May, the Test against Afghanistan was to have been played at Perth Stadium in late November.

But Cricket Australia confirmed Friday that following discussions with the Afghanistan and New Zealand cricket boards the decision had been made to delay those matches until next summer due to “the complexity of scheduling international matches during the global coronavirus pandemic”.

CA indicated it was confident a suitable window could be found within the current ICC Future Tours Program (FTP), that maps out the complex playing schedule for international men’s teams, to stage the postponed bilateral matches before the FTP’s conclusion in 2023.

“Cricket Australia looks forward to working with our good friends at the Afghanistan Cricket Board and New Zealand Cricket to deliver the matches at a time when, hopefully, the restrictions brought on by the COVID19 pandemic have eased,” CA’s interim Chief Executive Officer Nick Hockley said today.

“We all worked incredibly hard to make the series happen this summer, but the challenges around international travel and quarantine restrictions ultimately convinced all parties that the series would need to be played at a later date.”

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