Afghan delegation to attend peace talks in Russia — official

A US government watchdog last week said that Kabul’s control of Afghanistan had slipped in recent months. (AFP)
Updated 05 November 2018
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Afghan delegation to attend peace talks in Russia — official

  • ‘We welcome any peace effort that is Afghan-led’
  • Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the militant group was still mulling whether to go

KABUL: An Afghan delegation will attend international talks on the war-torn country in Russia this month, officials said Monday, as the Taliban consider whether to participate.
Moscow announced Saturday it would host the event on November 9 in the Russian capital — even as the United States engages the Taliban in nascent bilateral talks to end the 17-year conflict.
Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, a government body responsible for reconciliation efforts with the militants, would send four representatives to the meeting, spokesman Sayed Ihsan Taheri said.
The Afghan foreign ministry, however, remained evasive about whether it would dispatch a delegation to the conference, which will focus on kickstarting peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban.
“We are still negotiating with the Russian officials,” spokesman Sebaghtullah Ahmadi said.
“We welcome any peace effort that is Afghan-led.”
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the militant group was still mulling whether to go.
Moscow has also invited representatives from the United States as well as India, Iran, China, Pakistan and five former Soviet republics in Central Asia.
Pakistan, which has long been accused of providing support to the Afghan Taliban, would “definitely” attend, foreign ministry spokesman Muhammad Faisal said.
The US embassy in Kabul did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Moscow meeting was initially scheduled to take place in September, but was postponed after Kabul insisted that the process should be Afghan-led.
The meeting comes at a sensitive time.
Newly appointed US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has been trying to convince the Taliban to agree to negotiate an end to the war and there are fears the Russian multi-lateral meeting could derail those efforts.
A US government watchdog last week said Kabul’s control of Afghanistan had slipped in recent months as local security forces suffered record casualties while making minimal or no progress against the Taliban.


UK’s Hunt to make first visit to Iran

Britain's Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt leaves 10 Downing Street in London on November 14, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 19 November 2018
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UK’s Hunt to make first visit to Iran

  • Jeremy Hunt: “The Iran nuclear deal remains a vital component of stability in the Middle East by eliminating the threat of a nuclearised Iran. It needs 100 percent compliance though to survive”

LONDON: British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt will visit Iran for the first time on Monday for talks with the Iranian government on issues including the future of the 2015 nuclear deal, his office said in a statement.
In May, US President Donald Trump abandoned the deal, negotiated with five other world powers during Democratic President Barack Obama’s administration, and earlier this month the United States restored sanctions targeting Iran’s oil, banking and transportation sectors.
Hunt’s office said he would meet Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and would stress that the UK is committed to the nuclear deal as long as Iran sticks to its terms. He will also discuss European efforts to maintain nuclear-related sanctions relief.
“The Iran nuclear deal remains a vital component of stability in the Middle East by eliminating the threat of a nuclearised Iran. It needs 100 percent compliance though to survive,” Hunt said in a statement ahead of the visit.
“We will stick to our side of the bargain as long as Iran does. But we also need to see an end to destabilising activity by Iran in the rest of the region if we are going to tackle the root causes of the challenges the region faces.”
Hunt will also discuss Iran’s role in the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, his office said, and press Iran on its human rights record, calling for the immediate release of detained British-Iranian dual nationals where there are humanitarian grounds to do so.
“I arrive in Iran with a clear message for the country’s leaders: putting innocent people in prison cannot and must not be used as a tool of diplomatic leverage,” he said.