Interfaith coexistence on agenda at Moscow meeting

From right to left: Vice chairman of the IOPS, Elena Agapova; Chairman of the IOPS, Sergei Stepashin; Russian mufti and head of the Spiritual Assembly of Muslims of Russia, Albir-hazrat Krganov; Chairman and CEO of the (DLT), Eng. Zuhair bin Ali Azhar and president of the Center for International Partnership and Business Cooperation (CIBPC), Stanislav Kudryashov. (Supplied)
Updated 26 September 2018

Interfaith coexistence on agenda at Moscow meeting

  • The meeting between Zuhair bin Ali Azhar, the chairman and CEO of DLT, and Sergei Stepashin, the chairman of IOPS, developed grounds for a joint agreement to renounce extremism
  • The DLT CEO told Arab News that during his visit to IOPS the two groups discussed the Qaweem initiative, which aims to combat intellectual extremism and promote moderate thought

JEDDAH: A joint agreement to counter extremism was discussed at a meeting between the Distance Learning and Training Company (DLT) and the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society (IOPS) on Tuesday in Moscow.

The meeting between Zuhair bin Ali Azhar, the chairman and CEO of DLT, and Sergei Stepashin, the chairman of IOPS, at its headquarters in the capital, developed grounds for a joint agreement to renounce extremism, promote peaceful coexistence among people of different religions, and to support cooperation in training and education.

The DLT CEO told Arab News that during his visit to IOPS the two groups discussed the “Qaweem” initiative, which aims to combat intellectual extremism and promote moderate thought.

He highlighted that “the initiative is being finalized to launch during the coming period across the world.”

Azhar added: “The Qaweem initiative has a clear, effective and purposeful message for the whole world and aims to counter extremism, renounce terrorism, and promote moderate thought, intellectual security and coexistence values for people to communicate with each other without discrimination.

“The initiative also contributes to supporting education, development and training in countries that need it.”

The chief of IOPS called for a strategic partnership that aims to reject extremist ideas and promote peaceful coexistence between religions without religious, lingual or gender discrimination.

The meeting was concluded by the signing of a strategic cooperation and partnership agreement covering the initiative.

The meeting was attended by Elena Agapova, the vice chairman of IOPS, Albir-hazrat Krganov, the mufti of Moscow and head of the Spiritual Assembly of Muslims of Russia, and Stanislav Kudryashov, the president of the Center for International Partnership and Business Cooperation (CIBPC).


‘Political reconciliation’ with Pakistan top priority: Afghan envoy Daudzai

Updated 13 min 43 sec ago

‘Political reconciliation’ with Pakistan top priority: Afghan envoy Daudzai

  • Pakistan played positive role in US-Taliban peace talks, says diplomat

PESHAWAR: Afghanistan’s newly appointed special envoy for Pakistan has had put “mending political relations” between the two estranged nations as one of his top priorities.

Mohammed Umer Daudzai, on Tuesday said that his primary focus would be to ensure lasting peace in Afghanistan and maintain strong ties with Pakistan, especially after Islamabad’s key role in the Afghan peace process earlier this year.

In an exclusive interview, the diplomat told Arab News: “Two areas have been identified to focus on with renewed vigor, such as lasting peace in Afghanistan and cementing Pak-Afghan bilateral ties in economic, social, political and other areas.”

In order to achieve these aims, he said, efforts would be intensified “to mend political relations” between the neighboring countries.

Pakistan and Afghanistan share a 2,600-kilometer porous border and have been at odds for years. Bonds between them have been particularly strained due to a deep mistrust and allegations of cross-border infiltration by militants.

Kabul has blamed Islamabad for harboring Taliban leaders after they were ousted from power in 2001. But Pakistan has denied the allegations and, instead, accused Kabul of providing refuge to anti-Pakistan militants – a claim rejected by Afghanistan.

Daudzai said his immediate priority would be to focus on “political reconciliation” between the two countries, especially in the backdrop of a historic peace agreement signed in February this year when Pakistan played a crucial role in facilitating a troop withdrawal deal between the US and the Taliban to end the decades-old Afghan conflict. “Afghanistan needs political reconciliation which the Afghan government has already been working on to achieve bottom-up harmony,” he added.

Daudzai’s appointment Monday by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani took place days after Islamabad chose Mohammed Sadiq as Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s special representative for Afghanistan.

Reiterating the need to maintain strong bilateral ties with all of its neighbors, Daudzai said Pakistan’s role was of paramount importance to Afghanistan.

“Pakistan has a positive role in the US-Taliban peace talks, and now Islamabad could play a highly significant role in the imminent intra-Afghan talks. I will explore all options for a level-playing field for the success of all these initiatives,” he said, referring in part to crucial peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban which were delayed due to a stalemate in a prisoner exchange program – a key condition of the Feb. 29 peace deal.

Under the agreement, up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners and around 1,000 government prisoners were to be freed by March 10. So far, Afghanistan has released 3,000 prisoners, while the Taliban have freed 500. Daudzai said that while dates had yet to be finalized, the intra-Afghan dialogue could begin “within weeks.”

He added: “A date for intra-Afghan talks hasn’t been identified yet because there is a stalemate on prisoners’ release. But I am sure they (the talks) will be kicked off within weeks.”

Experts say Daudzai’s appointment could give “fresh momentum” to the stalled process and revitalize ties between the two estranged neighbors.

“Mohammed Sadiq’s appointment...could lead Kabul-Islamabad to a close liaison and better coordination,” Irfanullah Khan, an MPhil scholar and expert on Afghan affairs, told Arab News.

Daudzai said that he would be visiting Islamabad to kickstart the process as soon as the coronavirus disease-related travel restrictions were eased.

Prior to being appointed as the special envoy, he had served as Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan from April 2011 to August 2013.

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