Afghan rivals resume talks for peace

Representatives from the government, civil society and Taliban attended the talks. (AFP)
Updated 08 July 2019

Afghan rivals resume talks for peace

  • US aims to sign a political deal with Taliban before Afghan presidential polls
  • Nearly 70 representatives are attending the two-day meeting

DOHA: Dozens of powerful Afghans resumed talks with the Taliban on Monday in Doha, where a possible cease-fire is on the table along with key issues such as women’s rights.
Stakes are high for the talks which follow a week of US-Taliban negotiations with both sides eyeing a resolution to the bloody 18-year conflict.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted that the Afghan gathering “has been a long time coming” and praised the country’s “government, civil society, women, and Taliban” for coming together.
Washington has said it wants to seal a political deal with the Taliban ahead of Afghan presidential polls due in September to allow foreign forces to begin to withdraw.
Around 70 delegates are attending the two-day gathering which has been organized by Germany and Qatar.
“History will remember those who were able to set their differences aside for the sake of the country” said Germany envoy Markus Potzel as he opened the gathering Sunday.
A German source confirmed the second day of talks got underway just before 0600 GMT.
Delegate Asila Wardak, a member of the High Peace Council established by former president Hamid Karzai to engage with Taliban elements, said “everybody is emphasising on a cease-fire” during Sunday’s session.
The Taliban spoke about “women’s role, economic development, (and) the role of minorities” in a future settlement, she added.
Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said on Twitter that he looked “forward to a constructive dialogue.”
The so-called intra-Afghan meetings follow six days of direct US-Taliban talks that have been put on hold for the two day Afghan conference and are set to resume Tuesday, according to both sides.
US lead negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad said Saturday that the latest round of US-Taliban talks “have been the most productive of the rounds we’ve had with the Talibs.”
The Taliban said they were “happy with progress.”
The United States is not participating directly in the two-day Afghan summit, which is being attended by political heavyweights, government officials and at least six women.
The Taliban, who have steadfastly refused to negotiate with the government of President Ashraf Ghani, have stressed that those attending are only doing so in a “personal capacity.”
Ghani’s administration, which the Taliban consider a puppet regime, has also been excluded from the direct US-Taliban talks.
Sunday and Monday’s gathering is the third such meeting following landmark summits in Moscow in February and May.
An agreement with the Taliban is expected to have two main pillars — a US withdrawal from Afghanistan and a commitment by the militants not to offer sanctuary to extremists.
The Taliban’s relationship with Al-Qaeda was the main reason for the US invasion nearly 18 years ago.
But the thorny issues of power-sharing with the Taliban, the role of regional powers including Pakistan and India, and the fate of Ghani’s administration remain unresolved.


Thailand’s lost baby dugong dies from shock, eating plastic

Updated 29 min 42 sec ago

Thailand’s lost baby dugong dies from shock, eating plastic

  • Marium, the female baby dugong had already lost her mother when she was initially found
  • Biologists tried saving her, but they believe she died of a combination of the plastic and shock

BANGKOK: An 8-month-old dugong nurtured by marine experts after it was found lost near a beach in southern Thailand has died of what biologists believe was a combination of shock and ingesting plastic waste, officials said Saturday.
The female dugong — a large ocean mammal — was named “Marium” and became a hit in Thailand after images of biologists embracing and feeding her with milk and seagrass spread across social media. Veterinarians and volunteers had set out in canoes to feed Marium up to 15 times a day while also giving her health checks.
Last week, she was found bruised after being chased and supposedly attacked by a male dugong during the mating season, said Jatuporn Buruspat, director-general of the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources.
She was brought in for treatment in the artificial sea on Libong Island in Krabi province.
“We assume she wandered off too far from her natural habitat and was chased and eventually attacked by another male dugong, or dugongs, as they feel attracted to her,” Jatuporn said Saturday.
An autopsy showed a big amount of plastic waste in her intestine, which could also have played a part in her death as it led to gastritis and blood infection, he said.
“She must have thought these plastics were edible,” Jatuporn said.
The dugong is a species of marine mammal similar to the American manatee and can grow to about 3.4 meters (11 feet) in length. Its conservation status is listed as vulnerable.
Natural Resources and Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-arcpha said Marium’s death saddens the whole nation and the world.
“Her death will remind Thais and people all over the world not to dispose trash into the oceans,” Varawut said at a news conference.