US calls urgent meeting to review situation in southwest Syria

The United States has called an urgent meeting in Jordan out of concern about reports of strikes in southwestern Syria. (AFP)
Updated 12 March 2018
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US calls urgent meeting to review situation in southwest Syria

WASHINGTON: The United States has called an urgent meeting in Jordan out of concern about reports of strikes in southwestern Syria within the boundaries of the de-escalation zone negotiated last year, a US State Department official said on Monday.
If true, the reported strikes would be a clear violation of the ceasefire by the Syrian regime that broadens the conflict, a department official said in a statement.
"We urge all parties in the southwest de-escalation zone not to take actions that would jeopardize the ceasefire and make future cooperation more difficult," the statement said. "We have called an urgent meeting in Jordan to review the situation in southwest Syria and ensure maintenance of the de-escalation zone that the United States helped negotiate." 


Afghan leaders ‘optimistic’ over Taliban peace talks

Updated 36 min 28 sec ago
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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.