US vice president Mike Pence accuses Iran of Nazi-like anti-Semitism

US Vice President Mike Pence with his wife Karen and Poland's President Andrzej Duda with first lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda during a visit to the former Nazi concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz II-Birkenau, near Oswiecim, Poland. (Reuters)
Updated 15 February 2019
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US vice president Mike Pence accuses Iran of Nazi-like anti-Semitism

AUSCHWITZ, Poland: US Vice President Mike Pence accused Iran on Friday of anti-Semitism akin to the Nazis following his visit to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland that had strengthened his resolve to act against Tehran.
"We have the regime in Tehran that's breathing out murderous threats, with the same vile anti-Semitic hatred that animated the Nazis in Europe," Pence told reporters on Air Force Two before landing in Munich.
He said that being in Auschwitz had made him reflect to "strengthen the resolve of the free world to oppose that kind of vile hatred and to confront authoritarian threats of our time."
His comments at the former Nazi concentration camp came a day after he said Iran was the “greatest threat to peace and security in the Middle East” at a conference on the region taking place in Warsaw.
Pence accused Washington's European allies of trying to break US sanctions against Tehran and called on them to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.
"Sadly, some of our leading European partners have not been nearly as cooperative. In fact, they have led the effort to create mechanisms to break up our sanctions," Pence said.
Pence added that his country will keep a strong presence in the Middle East, continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with allies, and work with coalition partners to defeat Daesh to make the region safe for peace and prosperity.
He also said that there are winds of change happening in the region, with the recent historic visit of Pope Francis to the UAE and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit to Oman.


Germany in push to resurrect talks with Taliban

Updated 10 min 57 sec ago
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Germany in push to resurrect talks with Taliban

  • Only the Afghans ‘can decide upon the future of their country’

KABUL, BERLIN: Germany, a leading donor and member of the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan, has been talking with the Taliban and the Afghan government in an effort to restart peace talks to end 18 years of conflict, officials said.

While the Taliban have been talking with US officials since October about withdrawal of international troops, they have so far refused formal talks with the Western-backed government, which they dismiss as a “puppet” regime.

Berlin’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Markus Potzel, has visited Kabul for talks with the Afghan government and met Taliban officials in Doha at least twice this month.

“The current chance for a process toward a more peaceful Afghanistan should not be missed. If the friends of Afghanistan — and Germany is one of them — together can help in this effort, then we should do it,” Potzel said.

“In the end, only the Afghans themselves, including the Taliban, can decide upon the future of their country.”

The chief US negotiator in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, in March said that a draft agreement had been reached on a withdrawal of US forces in exchange for a commitment by the Taliban to cut ties with militant groups such as Al-Qaeda.

But there has been no agreement yet on a cease-fire or a start to talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, both seen as key conditions for a settlement.

An Afghan delegation had been due to meet Taliban officials in the Qatari capital Doha last month to build the basis for possible negotiations, but the meeting was canceled at the last minute after a dispute over the number of participants.

FASTFACT

 

● At least 3,804 Afghan civilians were killed in the war last year. ● 14,000 US troops are still stationed in Afghanistan.

“We realize that US-Taliban talks will gain momentum only if the insurgent leaders start engaging with the Afghan representatives,” a senior German official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Sohail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in Doha, said that Germany was one among several countries to have offered help to seek a peaceful resolution. 

The EU and Indonesia are among those to have offered help, another Taliban official said, declining to be named.

Discussions were held with Germany about an Afghan-Taliban meeting in Germany but no decision has been made, Shaheen told Reuters.

 

Captives subjected to abuse

Afghan captives held by the Taliban have been subjected to abuse, ill-treatment and actions that may amount to torture, the UN said on Sunday.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said it interviewed 13 detainees from a group of 53 recently rescued from the Taliban, mainly members of Afghan forces but also civilians and government officials captured by the insurgents.

The group was freed on April 25 when Afghan troops raided a Taliban-run detention facility in the Khas Uruzgan district in southern Uruzgan province.

Most of the captives were held since 2018, with three since 2016, the UNAMA statement said, adding they were kept in poor conditions and subjected to forced labor. It cites the detainees as saying that the Taliban killed some of their captives.

“I am gravely concerned about these serious allegations of ill-treatment, torture and unlawful killing of civilians and security personnel, as well as the deplorable conditions of detention,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the head of UNAMA.

The detainees were shackled while in captivity and almost all said they were beaten. The Taliban told them it was punishment for supporting the government, working with the Americans or fighting the insurgents.