Head of Afghan peace council due in Pakistan next week

File photo for Mr. Mohammad Daudzai, the head of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council. The council’s spokesperson told Arab News that Mr. Daudzai’s is due to arrive in Islamabad next week to meet with senior Pakistani officials and push forward peace talks with the Taliban. (Photo courtesy: Presidential palace in Kabul)
Updated 04 January 2019
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Head of Afghan peace council due in Pakistan next week

  • Daudzai will ‘discuss Taliban peace talks with Pakistani officials’
  • Afghan embassy says there are no details into Daudzai’s trip as yet

PESHAWAR: The head of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, Mohammad Daudzai, will arrive in Pakistan next week to meet with senior Pakistani officials and push forward peace talks with the Taliban, his spokesperson said on Wednesday. 
Afghanistan and the US have long pushed Pakistan to use its influence with the Taliban to bring them to the table for talks to end the 17-year war. 
Sayed Ihsan Taheri, council spokesman, told Arab News that Daudzai would be in Pakistan “next week to hold talks with Pakistani officials on regional issues,” but declined to specify an exact date.  
Taheri said Daudzai would exchange views with Pakistani officials regarding developments in Taliban peace talks and his government’s position on the latest efforts to bring the militants to the negotiating table. 
“Pakistan can prove significant in promoting peace parlays,” Taheri said.
Zardasht Shams, the deputy head of mission at the Afghan embassy in Islamabad, told Arab News he had no details yet of Daudzai’s visit.
“A date for the meeting has yet to be set,” he said.
Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs could not be reached for comment. 
Daudzai’s visit comes amid intensified efforts toward peace negotiations in Afghanistan. 
Last month, representatives from the Taliban, the US and regional countries met for talks in the UAE. So far, the Taliban has refused to hold formal talks with the Afghan government, which they consider an illegitimate foreign-appointed regime. 
The groups says it will first reach an agreement with the US, which it sees as the main force in Afghanistan since US-led forces toppled the Taliban government in 2001.
The US, on the other hand, insists any final settlement must be led by the Afghans.
Representatives from the Taliban’s Qatar office have recently attended peace talks in China, Germany, France and other countries. Last Sunday, Iran confirmed a Taliban delegation visited Tehran to advance peace talks in the neighboring country. 
Hikmat Safi, an adviser to Afghanistan’s Chief Executive, Abdullah Abdullah, said Daudzai’s planned visit to Islamabad was of paramount importance because Afghan peace talks had recently gained considerable momentum. He said Afghans expected a “cease-fire” in the country after the meeting scheduled between the Taliban and the US in Saudi Arabia next month. 
Last week, the Taliban rejected Kabul’s offer of talks in Saudi Arabia.
The Pakistan army has thrown its support behind the latest US efforts for a political settlement and urged Washington to retain Kabul as a friend in the region rather than a “failure.”
“We will facilitate talks as much as we can,” Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor, army spokesman, told reporters last month.


Mexico demands apology for colonial ‘abuses,’ Spain hits back

Handout photo released by the Mexican presidency showing Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador answering questions during a press conference at the Palacio Nacional, in Mexico City on March 25, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 26 March 2019
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Mexico demands apology for colonial ‘abuses,’ Spain hits back

  • “The government of Spain deeply regrets that the letter the Mexican president sent to his majesty the king, whose contents we firmly reject, has been made public,” it said in a statement

MEXICO CITY: The 500-year-old wounds of the Spanish conquest were ripped open afresh on Monday when Mexico’s president urged Spain and the Vatican to apologize for their “abuses” — a request Madrid said it “firmly rejects.”
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, an anti-establishment leftist, reopened the debate over Spain’s centuries of dominance in the New World with a video posted to social media, urging Spanish King Felipe VI and Pope Francis to apologize for the conquest and the rights violations committed in its aftermath.
“I have sent a letter to the king of Spain and another to the pope calling for a full account of the abuses and urging them to apologize to the indigenous peoples (of Mexico) for the violations of what we now call their human rights,” Lopez Obrador, 65, said in the video, filmed at the ruins of the indigenous city of Comalcalco.
“There were massacres and oppression. The so-called conquest was waged with the sword and the cross. They built their churches on top of the (indigenous) temples,” he said.
“The time has come to reconcile. But let us ask forgiveness first.”
Spain’s reaction was swift and unequivocal.
“The government of Spain deeply regrets that the letter the Mexican president sent to his majesty the king, whose contents we firmly reject, has been made public,” it said in a statement.
“The arrival, 500 years ago, of Spaniards to present Mexican territory cannot be judged in the light of contemporary considerations,” it said.
“Our two brother nations have always known how to read our shared past without anger and with a constructive perspective, as free peoples with a shared history and extraordinary influence.”

Lopez Obrador took office in December after a landslide election win that represented a firm break with Mexico’s traditional political parties.
A folksy populist, he pulls no punches in going after traditional elites — but had so far cultivated cordial relations with Spain, including during a visit to Mexico City by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez earlier this year.
Lopez Obrador made the remarks during a visit to his native Tabasco state, in southern Mexico.
He was later due to visit the nearby city of Centla. On March 14, 1519, the site was the scene of one of the first battles between Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes and the indigenous peoples of the land now known as Mexico.
With the help of horses, swords, guns and smallpox — all unknown in the New World at the time — Cortes led an army of less than 1,000 men to defeat the Aztec empire, the start of 300 years of Spanish rule over Mexico.