Philippines says it won’t be embroiled in US-China sea spat

US Navy’s amphibious assault vehicles with Philippine and US troops on board maneuver in the waters during a combined assault exercise facing the contested Scarborough Shoal in waters off of the Philippines. (AP)
Updated 21 January 2018
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Philippines says it won’t be embroiled in US-China sea spat

MANILA, Philippines: The Philippines says it won’t get embroiled in a fresh spat between the US and China involving Beijing’s protest of an American warship passing near a Chinese-controlled shoal also claimed by the Philippines.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said Sunday that “the United States can take care of its own interest” and added “we do not wish to be part of a US-China intramural” amid the new row in the disputed South China Sea.
The Chinese government on Saturday accused the US of trespassing in its territorial waters when a US guided missile destroyer sailed near Scarborough Shoal to promote freedom of navigation in the disputed region.
The Philippines also claims the shoal.


Afghan leaders ‘optimistic’ over Taliban peace talks

Updated 24 June 2018
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Afghan leaders ‘optimistic’ over Taliban peace talks

  • The Taliban last week rejected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s offer to extend the truce, but a government spokesman said on Saturday that the government was optimistic the militants were willing to engage in peace talks.
  • After ending the truce, the Taliban said its attacks against foreign troops and Afghans supporting them would continue.

KABUL: The Afghan government is confident of holding peace talks with Taliban militants despite a recent surge of attacks by insurgents, a palace spokesman said.

Shah Hussain Murtazawi said the announcement last week of a brief truce by the Taliban over Eid, the increasing movement of extremists and some field commanders to government-held areas, and a call for peace by the Imam of Makkah and the Saudi monarch were the basis of the government’s optimism.

The Taliban last week rejected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s offer to extend the truce, but Murtazawi said on Saturday that the government was optimistic the militants were willing to engage in peace talks.

“A new chapter has been opened and the broad support for a cease-fire and an end to the war are the causes for our optimism,” he told Arab News.

“The fact that Taliban announced a truce and their commanders came into towns and celebrated Eid with government officials are positive signs that the extremists will be ready for talks with the government.”

However, no contact has been established with leaders of the group since the militants called off their truce, Murtazawi said.

After ending the truce, the Taliban said its attacks against foreign troops and Afghans supporting them would continue. Scores of Afghan troops have been killed in a spate of attacks, including assaults on military bases where the insurgents joined government forces to celebrate Eid.

Some tribal chiefs and local officials are calling for “safe zones” where extremists can hold initial talks with the government, according to a local official who refused to be named.