World leaders remember ‘Islam-West mediator’ Abdullah

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Updated 24 January 2015
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World leaders remember ‘Islam-West mediator’ Abdullah

RIYADH: World leaders paid tribute to Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah on Friday, praising the late ruler as a key mediator between Muslims and the West.
US President Barack Obama said he and Abdullah, whose country has for decades been a strategic ally of Washington, had enjoyed a “genuine and warm friendship.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed Abdullah, who died in a Riyadh hospital earlier the same day, as a “wise politician.”
Iran sent condolences to the Saudi people and announced its foreign minister would travel to Riyadh for an “official ceremony” this weekend.
Abdullah, who officially took power in 2005, guided the Kingdom through a turbulent decade in the region, with neighbors Iraq and Yemen wracked with insecurity after the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings and the growth of Islamic radicalism.
French President Francois Hollande said Abdullah’s vision of “a fair and durable peace in the Middle East remains truer than ever.”
Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper praised the late king as “an ardent defender of peace.”
And the foreign ministry in Spain hailed Abdullah as “a respected figure throughout the Middle East for his willingness to help resolve conflicts.”
In London, Prime Minister David Cameron said the Saudi ruler would be remembered for “his commitment to peace and for strengthening understanding between faiths.”
Prince Charles of Wales is to travel to Riyadh as The Queen’s representative to pay his respects, the royal’s office said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Abdullah’s rule had been “fair and moderate,” praising him for aiding “dialogue between the Muslim world and the West.”
In the Middle East, Lebanon, which has close ties with Riyadh, spoke of losing “a defender and a partner” who had stood by Beirut “in difficult times.”
Tunisia’s President Beji Caid Essebsi said the king “ensured... support for causes of justice, peace and development in the Arab, Muslim and entire world.”
His country joined Algeria and Mauritania in announcing three days of mourning, while Cairo said its official grieving would run for a whole week.
Several leaders cut short overseas trips to travel to Riyadh and pay their respects.
Jordan’s King Abdallah II left the World Economic Forum in Davos, organizers said, before declaring 40 days of mourning for the late Saudi king.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin praised Abdullah as an “exemplary leader... with sound judgment.”
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas declared three days of mourning, describing the late monarch as a “sage.”
“With much sadness, we received the news of the death of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, a loss to the Arab and Islamic world,” Abbas said in a statement.
President Recip Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey said Abdullah had contributed “to strengthening cooperation and solidarity in the Muslim world, especially concerning the Palestinian question and the situation in Syria.”
At the Asian Cup in Australia, the national football team of the United Arab Emirates donned black armbands for their match against Japan.
Malaysian Prime Minister Rajib Razak called Abdullah a “great leader for his initiative for inter-religious dialogue,” and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani pointed to Saudi involvement in his country’s peace negotiations.
Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, paid tribute to a man who “brought prosperity and reforms to his nation.”


Germany in push to resurrect talks with Taliban

Updated 41 min 24 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.