Saudi Arabia to host meeting of Islamic scholars on Afghan war

Men carry the coffin of a relative who died in a deadly suicide attack at a voter registration center in Kabul, Afghanistan, on April 22, 2018. Taliban attacks in western Afghanistan killed 14 soldiers and policemen on Monday as residents in the capital prepared for the funerals of those killed in the horrific bombing by the Daesh group on a voter registration center that left at least 57 dead the previous day. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
Updated 29 April 2018

Saudi Arabia to host meeting of Islamic scholars on Afghan war

  • More bloodbath is expected as the Taliban has launched its annual "Spring Offensive" despite peace overtures by the government
  • Afghan official says the meeting in Jeddah will have high impact since in the past Pakistani ulema have repeatedly termed the war in Afghanistan as jihad and a righteous act

KABUL:  A meeting of Islamic scholars from across the world will be held in Jeddah in July to discuss the religious justification of the Taliban war against the Afghan government and the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan, Afghan High Peace Council (HPC) officials said on Saturday.

Akram Khpolwak, HPC’s secretariat chief, is in Saudi Arabia and has held meetings with authorities and members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation about the moot, Sayed Ehsanullah Tahiri, HPC spokesman, told Arab News.

The first of its kind, the moot will examine the latest round of the spiraling Afghan war, which began with the ousting of the Taliban in 2001. It is being held at the request of the HPC, which has struggled for years to bring Taliban militants to the dialogue table, the HPC official said.

It follows the offer of President Ashraf Ghani’s unconditional peace package in February, which has earned regional and international support.

The Taliban have neither rejected nor accepted the overture, but the launch of the group’s annual offensive this week was seen as a rejection of the offer by some analysts.

Asked if Afghanistan would accept a decision by the meeting that sought the expulsion of foreign troops, Tahiri said that the Taliban could put a timetable for troop withdrawal on the table when the group accepts Ghani’s unconditional peace talks offer.

“The meeting in Jeddah will have high impact since in the past Pakistani ulema have repeatedly termed the war here as jihad and a righteous act,” he said, adding that the upcoming moot will decide that the Afghan war has no legality.

“We need a religious verdict on this war and the holy religion of Islam emphatically orders all that there has to be talks, negotiations, between adversaries at all times.”

He said that despite the launch of the spring offensive by the Taliban, sources from within the group suggested that its leadership was deliberating on Ghani’s overture and expressed the hope that an Afghan-led peace process would begin later this year.

“All scholars from the Muslim countries should attend the meeting and assess the Afghan war and bloodshed from a religious point of view,” Tahiri said.

Abdul Sattar Khawasi, a lawmaker who is a leading opponent of foreign troops in Afghanistan, described the meeting as a great initiative by Saudi Arabia.

“We hope that the ulema come up with a just decision,” Khawasi said.

“We have some ulema who exploit facts. We hope that this meeting debates and decides about the overall conflict that is going on in different parts of the Islamic world,” he told Arab News.

Yemen FM: No peace before Houthi disarmament

The Arab coalition is striving to rebuild the humanity destroyed by the Houthis, says Yemen’s Foreign Minister Khalid Al-Yamani. File/Getty Images
Updated 26 May 2018

Yemen FM: No peace before Houthi disarmament

  • Alongside military operations, the coalition is undertaking humanitarian work to “rebuild the humanity destroyed by the Houthis
  • The Houthis’ “weapons and missiles must be handed over, and there is no room for dialogue or negotiation about them

LONDON: There cannot be peace in Yemen unless Houthi militias abandon their arms, said the country’s newly appointed Foreign Minister Khalid Al-Yamani.

The internationally recognized government will not allow Iran, which backs the Houthis, to maintain a foothold in Yemen or interfere in its internal affairs, he added.
“This terrorist regime” in Tehran, “which supplies terrorist militias all over the world, is close to collapse as a result of international and popular pressure by the Iranian people, who are suffering as their terrorist state spends billions here and there for a foolish expansionist idea,” Al-Yamani said.
“The modern and civilized world that respects international law cannot accept the existence of a state sponsor of terrorism and all subversive and terrorist militias in the region,” he added.
“If Iran wants to be part of the social, cultural and political fabric of our region, it must rationalize its behavior.” Its “terrorist behavior… encourages the spread of violence in the region,” he said.
Al-Yamani added that he will start his tenure as foreign minister by focusing on negotiations and the efforts of the UN special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths.
The government is working round the clock with the envoy’s office so he can present his ideas on June 7 after consultations with the government, Al-Yamani said.
There will be meetings in the next few days with Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, and a special meeting with the negotiating team, all within the framework of the envoy’s efforts in the region, Al-Yamani added.
Griffiths has visited several countries in the region, and has met with Yemen’s government and the leadership of the Saudi-led Arab coalition.
The Houthis “suggest that political arrangements should come before security and military arrangements,” said Al-Yamani.
But “the coup against the state in January 2015 came as a result of the preference of political over security arrangements,” he added.
“And after the Houthis achieved their goals, they turned against the national consensus reflected in the peace and partnership agreement, under which the president provided facilities to save the homeland from the fate we have reached today,” Al-Yamani said.
“We cannot talk about any political arrangements because we consider them to be a foregone conclusion if we achieve the withdrawal and delivery of heavy and medium weapons and missiles,” he added. “We cannot retry something we tried before... The coup must end.”
The Houthis’ “weapons and missiles must be handed over, and there is no room for dialogue or negotiation about them,” he said. “Heavy and medium weapons should be handed over, and those militias must be withdrawn.”
Al-Yamani criticized Iran’s ambassador to the UN for speaking in dovish language while his country causes destruction in Yemen.
“Most of what we have been able to remove of the mines planted by the Houthis had the trademark of Iranian industry,” Al-Yamani said.
“Even if we achieve peace today, we will need decades to demine... There will be no possibility of safe living in the areas where mines were planted.”
Al-Yamani expressed the gratitude of his government and people for the Saudi-led coalition’s support for the government to achieve security and peace in Yemen and the whole region.
Alongside military operations, the coalition is undertaking humanitarian work to “rebuild the humanity destroyed by the Houthis, rebuild the Yemeni psyche destroyed by the war, distribute goods throughout Yemen, and reconstruct what was destroyed by the Houthi war machine,” he said.
“All this confirms that the project of restoring the state… is the project of life,” which is “opposed to the project of death brought by Iran and its Houthi militias to Yemen,” he added.
This interview is simultaneously published in Asharq Al-Awsat.