Cuba urges Colombia, ELN rebels to follow peace talks protocol

A Colombian youth takes part in a demonstration demanding efforts to continue the peace talks between the government and the ELN guerrillas on January 25, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 26 January 2019

Cuba urges Colombia, ELN rebels to follow peace talks protocol

  • Cuba has found itself in a diplomatic bind since Colombia’s President Ivan Duque asked it last week to extradite ELN leaders
  • ELN admitted responsibility in a car bomb blast at a police academy in Bogota that killed 21 people

HAVANA: Cuba called on the Colombian government and ELN rebels on Friday to follow the protocol of the peace talks it had been hosting and implement measures needed, including security guarantees, to allow 10 ELN leaders in Havana to return to Colombia.
Cuba has found itself in a diplomatic bind since Colombia’s President Ivan Duque asked it last week to extradite those leaders following an ELN car bomb blast at a police academy in Bogota that killed 21 people.
The Cuban government condemned the attack but said it would follow the protocols agreed at the start of negotiations in 2017. These provide security guarantees for guerrilla commanders to return to Colombia or Venezuela within 15 days of an end to talks and bar military offensives for 72 hours. “Cuba’s foreign ministry calls on the Colombian government and the ELN to adopt the relevant measures that would allow the proceedings for the return of the ELN delegation in accordance with the protocol,” it said in a statement.
Duque has said the protocols do not apply since his government never participated in talks started by Former President Juan Manuel Santos. He had refused to restart the negotiations until the ELN freed all hostages and stopped criminal activities.
Though the notoriously decentralized ELN claimed responsibility for the car bombing last week, calling the attack a legitimate attack of war, its leaders in Cuba have said they were not involved.
Some analysts say the Colombian government should be obliged to accept the protocols despite the change of administration.
The Cuban foreign ministry said it had sent a verbal note to its Colombian counterpart recalling the commitments it and the ELN had undertaken, sending a copy of the note to the other countries overseeing the peace talks.
Cuba, which had previously hosted talks between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia that led to a peace agreement in 2016, recalled that it had offered to be the seat of peace talks last year as a “goodwill gesture.”
The original host Ecuador pulled its support for the talks, saying it would not host them as long as the guerrillas continued to wage attacks.


Anti-government protesters block roads in Pakistan as unrest mounts

Updated 14 November 2019

Anti-government protesters block roads in Pakistan as unrest mounts

  • Tens of thousands of demonstrators joined a sit-in in Islamabad on Oct. 31 and camped there for about two weeks
  • Firebrand cleric leading the protests called for nationwide demonstrations

ISLAMABAD: Anti-government protesters in Pakistan blocked major roads and highways across the country on Thursday in a bid to force Prime Minister Imran Khan to resign.
The demonstrators — led by the leader of opposition party Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), the firebrand cleric Maulana Fazlur Rehman — have taken to the streets as the start of their “Plan B” to topple the government and ensure a general election after failing to push Khan out through a fortnight-long sit-in in Islamabad, which ended on Wednesday.
That same day, Rehman told his party workers to spread their protests to other parts of the country.
“This protest will continue not for a day but for a month, if our leadership instructs,” said JUI-F Secretary-General, Maulana Nasir Mehmood, to a group of protesters who blocked the country’s main Karakoram Highway — an important trade route between Pakistan and China that also connects the country’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province with its northern areas.
The JUI-F protesters also blocked other key routes in KP and a major highway connecting the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan. The party’s Balochistan chapter also announced its intention to block the highway connecting Pakistan to neighboring Iran.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators joined the sit-in in Islamabad on Oct. 31 and camped there for about two weeks, demanding the prime minister’s resignation and fresh polls in the country following allegations of electoral fraud last year and the mismanagement of Pakistan’s economy. The government denies both charges.
Rehman is a veteran politician who was a member of the National Assembly for 20 years. He enjoys support in religious circles across the country. His party has yet to share a detailed plan regarding which roads will be closed when, or how long this new phase of protests will continue.
The JUI-F and other opposition parties have been trying to capitalize on the anger and frustration of the public against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf ruling party, which came to power last year promising 10 million new jobs for the youth, 5 million low-cost houses, and economic reforms to benefit the middle class.
Since then, Pakistan’s economy has nosedived, witnessing double-digit inflation and rampant unemployment. The government signed a $6-billion bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund to stave off a balance-of-payments crisis.
“Prime Minister Imran Khan has stabilized the deteriorating economy, and Maulana Fazlur Rehman ‘Plan B’ will fail like his ‘Plan A,’” Firdous Ashiq Awan, special assistant to the prime minister on information and broadcasting, said in a statement to the press.

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