Karzai hints at flexibility in Afghan-US troop talks

Updated 27 November 2012
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Karzai hints at flexibility in Afghan-US troop talks

KABUL: Afghan President Hamid Karzai hinted yesterday that his government would be flexible in negotiating “sensitive” issues in a new security pact with the United States.
Karzai did not spell out what issues he was referring to, but one of the most sensitive questions involves immunity from local prosecution for US troops remaining in Afghanistan after NATO forces withdraw in 2014.
Washington recalled all its troops from Iraq after Baghdad refused to grant US soldiers immunity, and Karzai has in the past warned there could be similar problems in Afghanistan.
But in a speech to industrialists and businessmen in Kabul, the president suggested that a deal would be reached.
“With the Americans we will make a deal in which neither the skewer burns nor the kebab,” he said, referring to an Afghan proverb on a settlement, which benefits both parties equally.
“Where they are sensitive, we shouldn’t touch too much, but we should consider our interests 100 percent,” he said.
But Karzai also accused the United States of using predictions by the Western media and analysts of post-2014 chaos to put pressure on his government “to surrender to their demands.” He vowed to “stand firm.”
Negotiations on the security pact were launched this month but negotiators said the immunity issue was not discussed in the first round.
President Barack Obama is weighing plans to keep roughly 10,000 US troops in Afghanistan after the NATO-led force hands over security to the Afghan government, a senior US official said this week.
The troop levels under consideration remain tentative but the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said options under consideration range from 6,000 to 15,000 American boots on the ground.
The follow-on force would carry out counter-terrorism operations against Al-Qaeda and provide training and logistical support for Afghan forces, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said.
The United States has about 66,000 troops in NATO’s total force in Afghanistan of slightly more than 100,000.


Rohingya ‘rights at risk’ after Myanmar ID move

The sun rises as thousands of Rohingya refugees who fled from Myanmar a day before wait by the road where they spent the night between refugee camps, near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, in this October 10, 2017 file photo. (REUTERS)
Updated 19 August 2018
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Rohingya ‘rights at risk’ after Myanmar ID move

  • Whatever the language or term is, the Myanmar government is the ultimate authority to determine the citizenship issue of the Rohingyas
  • If Bangladesh opposes it strongly, then Myanmar may take the chance to disown the statement by saying that it was not at all official

DHAKA: Bangladesh has yet to decide whether it will replace its official description of Rohingya refugees — a move some claim will limit the Rohingyas’ rights as Myanmar citizens.
A Bangladesh Foreign Ministry spokesman told Arab News a decision over the replacement of the term “forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals” with “displaced persons from Rakhine state” was still under consideration.
“During last week’s discussion with the Bangladesh delegation, the Myanmar authority brought this up. We have listened to their points in this regard,” Delwar Hossain, director-general of the Foreign Ministry, said.
“Discussion is continuing among the ministry’s policy-makers, but the decision has yet to be taken,” he said.
Another Bangladeshi official present at the meeting at Nay Pe Daw said that Bangladesh has not given any consent to the proposal from Myanmar regarding the replacement of the term.
“I have not received any directive over the issue,” said Abul Kalam, of the Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commission (RRRC), the main coordinating body looking after the Rohingyas in Cox’s Bazar.
However, experts believe that the replacement of the term “forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals” with “displaced persons from Rakhine state” will limit the Rohingyas’ ability to secure rights as Myanmar citizens.
“Whatever the language or term is, the Myanmar government is the ultimate authority to determine the citizenship issue of the Rohingyas. We want the (Rohingyas) to live in Rakhine with honor and dignity,” said Humayun Kabir, former Bangladesh ambassador to the US.
“We want to see developments on the ground for the repatriation of the refugees, and that is the prime concern at the moment.”
Independent migration expert Asif Munir said that Myanmar posted the statement on its state counsellor’s Facebook page, which is not an official channel.
He described the Myanmar approach as “very provocative.”
“Although Bangladesh authorities have not yet officially agreed with the Myanmar proposal, they (Myanmar) have issued a statement through an informal channel to see the response of the Bangladeshis. If Bangladesh opposes it strongly, then Myanmar may take the chance to disown the statement by saying that it was not at all official,” Munir said.
“This proposal will hamper the Rohingyas’ identity and citizenship of Myanmar.”