Thousands of Saakashvili supporters march in Kiev

Activists (R) gather opposite security personnel during a mass march and rally calling for the impeachment of Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko organized by "Movement Of The New Forces" which is headed by former Georgian President Mikhael Saakashvili in Kiev on Sunday. (AFP)
Updated 19 February 2018
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Thousands of Saakashvili supporters march in Kiev

KIEV: Thousands of supporters of deported former Georgian leader Mikheil Saakashvili marched through the streets of Kiev on Sunday, demanding the impeachment of the Ukrainian President.
An AFP correspondent saw some 10,000 people taking part in the rally, though the ministry of internal affairs put the number at around 3,000 participants.
Protesters carried banners portraying president Petro Poroshenko with a red line drawn over his face. The demonstrators chanted “Impeachment!,” “Resignation!” and “Poroshenko is a thief!“
Former Georgian President Saakashvili, 50, who had been living in exile in Ukraine, was detained by masked men at a restaurant in central Kiev and deported to Poland on Monday.
The state border guard service said he had been residing in Ukraine “illegally” and was sent to the country where he initially came from.
On Tuesday, Saakashvili gave a press conference in Warsaw and said he had been blindfolded and rushed first by van, then by helicopter to Kiev international airport.
On Wednesday an opposition leader, who is married to a Dutch woman, arrived in the Netherlands.
Kiev resident Galina Zagoruiko, one of the angry protesters on Sunday, said; “people can’t stand it anymore — that nothing changes and everything just gets worse.”
As many others, she had come to support a political party founded by Saakashvili.
Saakashvili, a former governor of Ukraine’s Odessa region, was once an ally of Poroshenko, but then became one of his greatest foes.
Kiev accuses Saakashvili of trying to stage a coup sponsored by allies of former Kremlin-backed Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych — a charge he strongly denies.
Ukraine stripped Saakashvili of his passport, but he nonetheless continued to challenge the government, organizing frequent protests demanding Poroshenko’s ouster.
With the help of his supporters, he broke through the Polish-Ukrainian border in September last year, and was briefly detained in December in Kiev.
Saakashvili is wanted by the Georgian government on multiple criminal charges, which he says are politically motivated.


Pakistan and China push for peace in Afghanistan

Updated 15 December 2018
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Pakistan and China push for peace in Afghanistan

  • Trilateral talks also focused on boosting trust and security between the three countries
  • FM Qureshi extends the olive branch for a new chapter with Kabul

KABUL: Foreign Ministers of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and China held a trilateral meeting in Kabul on Saturday where they discussed measures to boost political trust and join hands for a regional war against militancy which would facilitate the Afghan peace process, even as Taliban insurgents stepped up their attacks.

The meeting was the second one to take place after Beijing had initiated the talks in December last year in order to ease the rising tension between Kabul and Islamabad whose relationship is highly critical for Beijing’s growing economic and political clout in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

In recent years, China has deepened its economic and political ties with Afghanistan and is actively using its influence to bring the two South Asian neighbors closer.

Pakistan has long been accused by Afghanistan and the US of providing safe havens for Afghan Taliban leaders, by funding and arming them since their ouster in late 2001.

Islamabad has denied the allegations.

After the meeting on Saturday, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi pushed for a new chapter with Afghanistan, adding that the ongoing blame game would not help in achieving peace or building trust between Islamabad and Kabul.

He said that the Daesh and militants from Central Asia and eastern China were against the peace process in Afghanistan, urging for joint efforts to tackle the extremism.

“I am here to engage with Afghanistan. Let us not stick to the past and stop pointing a finger on Pakistan… I came here to build trust and bridges and reach peace and stability. Any improvement in Afghanistan will benefit Pakistan,” Qureshi told a news conference.

The three countries signed an agreement pushing for joint efforts in the war against militancy with Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister, Salahuddin Rabbani, saying that the coming weeks and months will be highly crucial in evaluating Pakistan’s intentions and its role in supporting an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.

Officials from both Afghanistan and Pakistan have held a number of meetings in recent years to mend bilateral ties and work towards measures to fight militancy. However, those talks were an exercise in futility as they were followed by the two countries trading accusations and resorting to the blame game. Rabbani said that “the time has come (for Pakistan) to practically show with genuine steps” that it will fulfill its pledges.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi described both Afghanistan and Pakistan as its strategic partners, adding that China had great political trust in the two. He asked both the countries to resolve their problems in a peaceful manner and backed the US’ efforts to engage in peace talks with the Taliban, urging the militant group to get involved in the process. 

“We support Afghanistan and Pakistan’s efforts for peace and we call on the Taliban to join the peace process. Cooperation between Afghanistan, Pakistan, and China is important to bring peace to Afghanistan.” 

The three sides emphasized the importance of regional connectivity and economic development between them. 

Saturday’s meeting took place at a time when Washington is stepping up its efforts to hold talks with the Taliban by meeting with regional powers on how to end the US war in Afghanistan which began more than 17 years ago.

Mohammad Nateqi, a former Afghan diplomat, said that a deciding factor for Saturday’s agreement to work depended on building mutual trust between Pakistan and Afghanistan given the fact that similar conversations have taken place between Kabul and Islamabad earlier as well, without bearing any fruit.

However, at the same time, he was optimistic about positive results, reasoning that the situation had changed when compared to the past with the US increasing its efforts for talks with the Taliban.

“Such meetings can be helpful in mending ties between the countries and in helping them come closer to achieving a peace plan,” he told Arab News.