Kabul cancels Taliban meeting in Doha

Zalmay Khalilzad said he was disappointed that Qatar’s intra-Afghan initiative has been delayed. (File/AFP)
Updated 19 April 2019

Kabul cancels Taliban meeting in Doha

  • President’s office says talks off following disagreement with Qatar
  • The meeting would have been the first of its kind since the Taliban was ousted from power by a US-led coalition in 2001

KABUL: A major meeting between the Afghan Taliban and the government of Afghanistan was cancelled on Friday, after disagreements with the host nation, Qatar.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had announced the names of a 250-strong delegation to travel to Doha on Tuesday, to hold discussions with the militant group over ending the country’s 17-year conflict.

The trip was delayed on Thursday, however, before Ghani’s office declared it was off in a statement on Friday morning, following suggestions the Qatari government had rejected a number of members of the delegation at the last minute. An alternative list of delegates suggested by Doha “was not acceptable to the Afghan government,” leading it to pull out of the talks.

“The Qatari government sent a new list which was not balanced in terms of involvement of the people of Afghanistan … it was a disrespect to the national will of the Afghan people,” the statement said.

“Politicians meeting with President Ghani agreed that the act by the Qatari government is not acceptable, and the Doha conference was cancelled.”

The meeting would have been the first of its kind since the Taliban was ousted from power by a US-led coalition in 2001, and came amid pressure from Washington to find a diplomatic solution to hostilities. US President Donald Trump’s administration has ramped up tension in recent months by beginning the process of withdrawing troops from the country.

Talks in Qatar were initially proposed following repeated pushes by Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special representative for Afghan reconciliation, for an intra-Afghan meeting including Ghani’s government.

A number of closed-door talks between the Taliban and Khalilzad had previously been held in Doha, but representatives of Ghani’s government, at the request of the militants, were not invited.

“I’m disappointed Qatar’s intra-Afghan initiative has been delayed,” Khalilzad said on Twitter. “I urge all sides to seize the moment and put things back on track by agreeing to a participant list that speaks for all Afghans.”

The Taliban responded to the news in a statement, saying that it remained committed to peace talks in Doha, blaming Kabul for the failure of the meeting.

“The (Taliban) negotiation team … worked day and night, exercised self-restraint and showed flexibility to the highest level, but since the Kabul administration created obstacles to this effort, responsibility falls upon their shoulders,” the statement said.

UK’s Johnson to visit European capitals seeking Brexit breakthrough

Updated 18 August 2019

UK’s Johnson to visit European capitals seeking Brexit breakthrough

  • Johnson will travel for talks with German Chancellor Merkel and French President Macron
  • Johnson is expected to push for the EU to reopen negotiations over the terms of Brexit

LONDON: UK's Boris Johnson will visit European capitals this week on his first overseas trip as prime minister, as his government said Sunday it had ordered the scrapping of the decades-old law enforcing its EU membership.

Johnson will travel to Berlin on Wednesday for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and on to Paris Thursday for discussions with French President Emmanuel Macron, Downing Street confirmed on Sunday, amid growing fears of a no-deal Brexit in two and a half months.

The meetings, ahead of a two-day G7 summit starting Saturday in the southern French resort of Biarritz, are his first diplomatic forays abroad since replacing predecessor Theresa May last month.

Johnson is expected to push for the EU to reopen negotiations over the terms of Brexit or warn that it faces the prospect of Britain's disorderly departure on October 31 -- the date it is due to leave.

European leaders have repeatedly rejected reopening an accord agreed by May last year but then rejected by British lawmakers on three occasions, despite Johnson's threats that the country will leave then without an agreement.

In an apparent show of intent, London announced Sunday that it had ordered the repeal of the European Communities Act, which took Britain into the forerunner to the EU 46 years ago and gives Brussels law supremacy.

The order, signed by Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay on Friday, is set to take effect on October 31.

"This is a landmark moment in taking back control of our laws from Brussels," Barclay said in a statement.

"This is a clear signal to the people of this country that there is no turning back -- we are leaving the EU as promised on October 31, whatever the circumstances -- delivering on the instructions given to us in 2016."

The moves come as Johnson faces increasing pressure to immediately recall MPs from their summer holidays so that parliament can debate Brexit.

More than 100 lawmakers, who are not due to return until September 3, have demanded in a letter that he reconvene the 650-seat House of Commons and let them sit permanently until October 31.

"Our country is on the brink of an economic crisis, as we career towards a no-deal Brexit," said the letter, signed by MPs and opposition party leaders who want to halt a no-deal departure.

"We face a national emergency, and parliament must be recalled now."

Parliament is set to break up again shortly after it returns, with the main parties holding their annual conferences during the September break.

Main opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn wants to call a vote of no confidence in Johnson's government after parliament returns.

He hopes to take over as a temporary prime minister, seek an extension to Britain's EU departure date to stop a no-deal Brexit, and then call a general election.

"What we need is a government that is prepared to negotiate with the European Union so we don't have a crash-out on the 31st," Corbyn said Saturday.

"This government clearly doesn't want to do that."

Britain could face food, fuel and medicine shortages and chaos at its ports in a no-deal Brexit, The Sunday Times newspaper reported, citing a leaked government planning document.

There would likely be some form of hard border imposed on the island of Ireland, the document implied.

Rather than worst-case scenarios, the leaked document, compiled this month by the Cabinet Office ministry, spells out the likely ramifications of a no-deal Brexit, the broadsheet claimed.

The document said logjams could affect fuel distribution, while up to 85 percent of trucks using the main ports to continental Europe might not be ready for French customs.

The availability of fresh food would be diminished and prices would go up, the newspaper said.