Karzai meets Qatar emir to discuss Taleban office

Updated 01 April 2013
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Karzai meets Qatar emir to discuss Taleban office

DOHA: Afghan President Hamid Karzai held talks yesterday with the emir of Qatar during a visit to discuss opening a Taleban office in the Gulf state, as a prelude to possible peace negotiations with the militants.
Karzai discussed “issues of mutual interest” with Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, state news agency QNA said, without giving details of the meeting in Doha city.
The Afghan president previously opposed a Taleban office in Qatar since he feared that his government would be frozen out of any future peace deal involving the Islamic extremists and the United States.
The militants refuse to have direct contact with Karzai, saying he is a puppet of the United States, which supported his rise to power after the military operation to oust the Taleban from Kabul in 2001.
But with US-led NATO combat troops due to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, Karzai recently backed the proposed office in Doha and his office said he would raise the plan.
Any future peace talks still face numerous hurdles before they begin, including confusion over who would represent the Taleban and Karzai’s insistence that his appointees should be at the center of negotiations.
“We will discuss the peace process, of course, and the opening of an office for the Taleban in Qatar,” presidential spokesman Aimal Faizi told AFP before Karzai left Kabul on Saturday. “If we want to have talks to bring peace to Afghanistan, the main side must be the Afghan government’s representatives — the High Peace Council, which has members from all the country’s ethnic and political backgrounds,” Faizi added.
Kabul has repeatedly stressed that it will only start talks if the militants break all links with Al-Qaeda and give up violence, and Faizi said any Taleban office in Qatar must be subject to strict conditions.
“It can only be an address where the armed opposition sit and talk to the Afghanistan government,” he said. “This office cannot be used for any other purposes.”
Karzai met Qatari investors on Saturday evening and encouraged them to invest in the country as it works to secure stability before NATO-led combat forces withdraw next year.
“The future of Afghanistan is guaranteed because our relations have expanded with America and other countries such as China, India and Russia,” he said according to an e-mailed statement.
“Afghanistan has good opportunities and resources that we can share with you.”
The United Nations last week welcomed news that Karzai would visit Qatar, and issued another call for the Taleban to come to the negotiating table.
But a Qatar office could mean little if the Taleban continue to refuse to negotiate with Karzai or with the government-appointed High Peace Council.
“The opening of the Taleban office in Qatar is not related to Karzai, it is a matter between the Taleban and the Qatar government,” Taleban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP.


Border opening ‘too little, too late’ for besieged Gazans

Palestinian passengers wait to cross the border to the Egyptian side of Rafah crossing with Egypt, in Khan Younis, in the Gaza Strip, on Tuesday. AP
Updated 38 sec ago
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Border opening ‘too little, too late’ for besieged Gazans

  • Egypt has supported the blockade because it fears that an open crossing at Rafah will allow Hamas to provide direct support to the Muslim Brotherhood
  • Gaza is home to about 2 million people, making it one of the most densely populated areas in the world

RAFAH: Long lines of weary Gazans waiting to cross into Egypt this week say they hold little hope the border’s brief opening for Ramadan will significantly reduce pressure on the strip.

Egypt’s President, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, ordered the crossing at Rafah to be temporarily opened as a gesture of goodwill to “ease the burden” on Gaza.
But for the Palestinians enduring a crippling 11-year land, sea and air blockade imposed by Israel and supported by Cairo, the move is too little, too late. Many want to get out of Gaza and never come back.
Mahmood Al-Amoudi was waiting at the crossing with his wife and two daughters. He hoped to be allowed through so he could continue on and stay with his brother in Sweden.
“We live here like slaves. Nobody cares about us, even when we travel. I have been trying to travel for a week and although the crossing is open, traffic is slow,” the 37-year-old told Arab News.
“I had an argument about this with my wife: Do we have to live outside Palestine? Finally, we decided that we cannot continue living here in the Gaza Strip under such harsh conditions.”

Easing tensions
The Palestinian Ministry of Information in Gaza said the total number of people to have crossed Rafah into Egypt in the first 10 days since the opening on May 12 stood at 4,277.
According to reports in the Palestinian media, Egypt hopes that by opening the Rafah crossing it can ease escalating tensions between Gaza’s population and Israel following weeks of protests against the occupation.
At least 114 Palestinians have been killed and thousands injured on the strip’s border with Israel since mass protests began there on March 30. The worst of the violence came on May 14, when 60 people were killed on the same day that the new US embassy was opened in Jerusalem.
Gaza is home to about 2 million people, making it one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Residents receive just four hours of electricity a day and the economy is in recession.
Israel imposed its blockade after Hamas took control of the strip in 2007, following the Islamist group’s shock victory in legislative elections a year earlier and bloody clashes with its rival Fatah.
Since El-Sisi took power in 2013, Egypt has supported the blockade because it fears that an open crossing at Rafah will allow Hamas to provide direct support to the Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas denies that the opening of the Rafa crossing for Ramadan is part of a deal with Cairo to stop or ease the protests on the Israeli border.
For people trying to cross this week, the reasons for the easing of restrictions are unimportant. They just want to get out while they have the chance.
Raed Madhoun, 32, had been waiting to cross for three days because he is afraid that he will not be allowed to leave after Ramadan.
“I am trying to travel now to complete my master’s degree in Malaysia. I stopped studying for a year because I could not travel before. Now I want to complete my studies,” he said.