Afghanistan’s chief executive boycotts Taliban peace talk meeting

Afghan Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah. (AP file photo)
Updated 14 April 2019
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Afghanistan’s chief executive boycotts Taliban peace talk meeting

  • President wants meeting on how to make peace with Taliban
  • Divisions in Afghan unity government

KABUL: Afghanistan’s chief executive said Sunday he would boycott an assembly, or loya jirga, proposed by President Ashraf Ghani on how to make peace with the Taliban.

Dr. Abdullah Abdullah's decision is a further setback for Ghani, who has been excluded from all peace talks between the Taliban and US officials in recent months. The president had called for a jirga in order to lay the framework and conditions for talks with the insurgents.

But Abdullah said he and his party members had not been consulted by Ghani about the gathering, which will bring thousands of delegates and tribal chiefs from across Afghanistan on April 29 to advise the government on the negotiations.

Abdullah, whose ties with Ghani have been shaky since the creation of a power-sharing national unity government in 2014, said he did not see it “helpful to overcome the current challenges in the country.”

His boycott shows new divisions in the government, which was created in a US-brokered deal after 2014 polls.

“We in the Stability and Partnership team have not been involved in any consultation, neither at political party nor individual level, nor at the government level,” a statement cited Abdullah as saying.

“The Stability and Partnership team led by … Abdullah announces that members of the team will not attend the meeting named ‘Consultative Jirga on Peace.’”

Members of the team, which has fielded at least one nominee for September’s presidential race against Ghani, told Arab News they would not attend the jirga either.

Haroon Chakhansuri, a presidential spokesman, said the party led by Abdullah had not shared its concern with the president and that the two leaders would meet to discuss the issue.

Earlier Sunday, disagreements delayed once again a meeting of a newly established reconciliation council with the president for finalizing a delegation for the upcoming meeting with the Taliban in Qatar set for April 19.

The council was set up by Ghani and involves the country’s factions and civil society members. Ghani established it following repeated calls by US envoy Zalamy Khalilzad to form an inclusive team for talks with the Taliban, after Ghani came under fire for creating an earlier version that included his supporters and was not seen as inclusive.

Khalilzad has led almost all talks with the Taliban. These have mostly been held in Qatar. During the last round he discussed the pullout of US troops and a Taliban guarantee that Afghanistan would not pose a threat to any country or US interests when the troops left.

Some politicians said the government opposed the participation of its political rivals in Qatar.

“The government appoints those on the list who work in the government, but we the politicians suggest that there is a need for an Afghan delegation which could represent all of Afghanistan,” politician Ahmadullah Alizai told reporters.

Abdullah’s boycott and disagreement in the leadership council showed how complicated and difficult it was for Ghani “to bring everyone around the table to make the process possible,” Bilal Sarwary, a senior Afghan journalist, told Arab News.


Woman shot dead in N.Ireland in ‘terrorist incident’

Updated 19 April 2019
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Woman shot dead in N.Ireland in ‘terrorist incident’

  • A car-bombing and the hijacking of two vans in Londonderry earlier this year were blamed on a dissident paramilitary group
  • A 1998 peace deal largely brought an end to three decades of bloodshed in Northern Ireland between republican and unionist paramilitaries

LONDON: A woman has been shot dead during riots in the city of Londonderry in Northern Ireland and the killing is being treated as a terrorist incident, police said Friday.
Images posted on social media showed a car and van ablaze and hooded individuals throwing petrol bombs and fireworks at police vehicles.
It was not immediately clear who the woman was or who shot her.
“Sadly I can confirm that following shots being fired tonight in Creggan, a 29-year-old woman has been killed,” Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said in a statement on Twitter.
“We are treating this as a terrorist incident and we have launched a murder enquiry.”
The violence came in the run-up to the Easter weekend, when Republicans opposed to British presence in Northern Ireland mark the anniversary of a 1916 uprising against British rule.
A car-bombing and the hijacking of two vans in Londonderry (also known as Derry) earlier this year were blamed on a dissident paramilitary group.
Arlene Foster, leader of the Democratic Union Party, which is in favor of Britain’s presence in Northern Ireland, described the death as “heartbreaking news.”
“A senseless act. A family has been torn apart. Those who brought guns onto our streets in the 70s, 80s & 90s were wrong. It is equally wrong in 2019. No one wants to go back,” she wrote on Twitter.
A 1998 peace deal largely brought an end to three decades of sectarian bloodshed in Northern Ireland between republican and unionist paramilitaries, as well as British armed forces, in a period known as “the Troubles.”
Some 3,500 people were killed in the conflict — many at the hands of the Irish Republican Army (IRA).
Police have blamed a group called the New IRA for the flare-up in violence in recent months.
Some have expressed fears that recent attacks could be a sign that paramilitaries are seeking to exploit the current political turbulence over Northern Ireland and its border with the Republic of Ireland caused by Brexit.
Michelle O’Neill, the deputy leader of Irish republican party Sinn Fein, condemned those responsible for the killing.
“My heart goes out to the family of the young woman shot dead by so-called dissidents,” she wrote on Twitter.
“This was an attack on the community, an attack on the peace process and an attack on the Good Friday Agreement,” she added, while calling for calm.
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