May seeks ‘ambitious plans’ for Brexit talks at EU summit

British Prime Minister Theresa May arrives for an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday. (AP)
Updated 19 October 2017
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May seeks ‘ambitious plans’ for Brexit talks at EU summit

BRUSSELS: British Prime Minister Theresa May said Thursday that she wanted European Union leaders meeting in Brussels to set out “ambitious plans” for Brexit negotiations in the coming weeks.
“We will be looking at the concrete progress that’s been made in our exit negotiations and setting out ambitious plans for the weeks ahead,” she said as she arrived for the two-day EU summit.
“I particularly want to see an urgency in reaching an agreement on citizens’ rights.”
The 27 other EU leaders are due to decide whether there has been “sufficient progress” in the first stage of Brexit talks, and if they can move on to discussing Britain’s future trading relationship.
But after five rounds of negotiations there remains a deadlock, notably on the question of Britain’s financial commitments, and the decision is expected to be delayed until the next EU summit in December.
May is due to plead her case with her fellow leaders at a working dinner on Thursday evening, before leaving them to make their decision without her on Friday morning.
The prime minister made a speech on Brexit in Florence last month, offering some concessions on the money and the rights of around three million European citizens living in Britain.
In a letter directly addressing European citizens on Thursday, May said Britain was within “touching distance” of a deal on guaranteeing their future, and vowed again that anyone living lawfully in Britain would not be asked to leave after Brexit.
But questions remain about their status if there is no deal before Britain automatically leaves the EU in March 2019.


Afghan president faces flak for Eid truce offer

Updated 3 min 43 sec ago
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Afghan president faces flak for Eid truce offer

  • President Ashraf Ghani announced a three-month-long Eid truce with the Taliban on Sunday while marking Afghanistan's 99th Independence Day
  • The Taliban, in turn, announced the release of captured government soldiers on Eid Al-Adha but are silent over truce offer

KABUL: Taliban militants on Monday refrained from openly accepting, or rejecting, President Ashraf Ghani’s three-month-long conditional ceasefire. Dozens of Afghans, however, marched in protest in Kabul against Ghani’s offer, saying the insurgents did not deserve a truce.

The US, Britain, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are among countries that hailed President Ghani’s proposal, made on Sunday evening.

The Taliban had earlier accepted Ghani's truce offer during Eid Al-Fitr and announced a halt to fighting and thousands of them entered government-held areas to celebrate the post-Ramadan festival.

Spokesmen for the Taliban said their leadership had given no instruction whether the group will indeed declare a truce this time around.

The Taliban did say that several government troops captured by the insurgents would be freed on the occasion of Eid and that their release was not linked to Ghani's offer.

A spokesman for Ghani, Haroon Chakhansuri, said on Monday that no Taliban troops were among those the government plans to free on Eid Al-Adha.

Officials at the office of Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah Abdullah said no unilateral truce would be allowed along the pattern of last Eid. At that time, the Taliban observed only three days of ceasefire and attacked government forces across the country while the government enforced a longer truce.

Without the other side's willingness to halt fighting, the ceasefire would be meaningless, they said.

The spokesman for the government-appointed High Peace Council (HPC), Sayed Ehsan Taher, said the body’s findings showed that people wanted a permanent ceasefire between the government and the Taliban.

Afghan lawmakers claim the government seeks a prolonged truce because it is unable to hold both the parliamentary elections slated for October and the presidential election in six months’ time.
Despite international support for Ghani’s ceasefire offer, a group of people in Kabul, led by former intelligence chief, Amrullah Saleh, staged a protest against it.

“The Taliban only bring the forces of evil into our cities. They only bring death, destruction, and chaos,” one protester, Ejaz Malikzada, said.
Forgetting the crimes of Taliban militants is tantamount to participating in their crimes, said some of the lawmakers in Ghani's administration. Family members of hundreds and thousands of Taliban victims have neither forgiven nor forgotten the atrocities, said one of the lawmakers who asked for anonymity.
“Our city is our home, not a haven for filthy terrorists. The Taliban only bring death and destruction. In a matter of one week, Taliban terrorists murdered 1,000 Afghan National Security Forces and civilians. We cannot let all that blood go in vain,” said Saleh.
The protesters called on the general public not to allow the Taliban to enter government-held areas. Some locals in northern Baghlan province have even vowed to shoot any Taliban on sight if they enter government-held areas as they did the previous time.