European Parliament in ‘secret’ talks with North Korea

Members of the European Parliament take part in a voting session at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, March 14, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 14 March 2018
0

European Parliament in ‘secret’ talks with North Korea

STRASBOURG: A European Parliament delegation said Wednesday it has been conducting secret talks with North Korea over the last three years to try to persuade Pyongyang to negotiate an end to its nuclear program.
The group led by British MEP Nirj Deva has met senior North Korean officials, including ministers, 14 times and plans another meeting in Brussels in the near future.
News of the below-the-radar diplomacy effort comes after the surprise announcement that US President Donald Trump plans a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, part of fast-paced developments following an Olympic detente.
Deva said he and his colleagues on the European Parliament Delegation for Relations with the Korean Peninsula had been “relentlessly advocating the case for dialogue without preconditions” to end the increasingly tense nuclear standoff with the North.
“I did much of the advocacy in secrecy with my colleagues. It is only now that I am revealing our efforts to a wider audience in the light of the proposed talks,” Deva said.
The group also met senior officials in the US, China, Japan and South Korea, Deva said, for dialogue aimed at achieving a “verifiable denuclearised Korean peninsula.”
“We met in secret with senior North Koreans on 14 occasions. We understood their concerns and they understand ours,” he told a press conference at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
The MEPs held regular clandestine meetings with the North Koreans in Brussels, Deva said, listening to their concerns and trying to convince them of the risks of nuclear war.
“We told them in no uncertain terms that if they carry on with the missile program and the nuclear bomb program they will only lead to an inevitable conclusion which is unthinkable,” Deva said.
EU diplomacy is normally carried out by the bloc’s dedicated foreign affairs department, which has diplomatic missions all around the world.
Deva said his delegation had a role to play in developing “confidence building measures” to support the planned US-North Korea dialogue.
And Deva said that from his meetings he believed the tough sanctions the EU has in place against North Korea had been an important factor in driving Pyongyang to agree to talks.
“Part of the reason that this happened was the sanctions started to bite poor people — not the elite,” he said.
The sudden announcement of the summit between Kim and Trump and Pyongyang’s reported willingness to discuss ending its nuclear program have raised hopes of detente after months of tension.
As well as the Kim-Trump meeting, North and South Korea are also planning a summit next month.
Paul Ruebig, an Austrian MEP who is deputy chair of the committee and took part in the secret meetings, called for the UN to take part in the summits to give them a global scope.


Pakistan and China push for peace in Afghanistan

Updated 15 December 2018
0

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.