Angelina Jolie visits Rohingya camp in Bangladesh

Angelina Jolie, a special envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), arrives at Cox’s Bazar Airport, ahead of a visit to nearby Rohingya refugee camps. (AFP)
Updated 07 February 2019

Angelina Jolie visits Rohingya camp in Bangladesh

  • Jolie is in Bangladesh to assess the humanitarian needs of the one million Rohingya in camps around the town of Cox’s Bazar
  • Bangladesh has been reeling since more than 730,000 Rohingya arrived from Myanmar after August 2017

COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh: Hollywood superstar Angelina Jolie visited a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh on Monday ahead of a new UN appeal for nearly one billion dollars to look after the refugee influx.
After arriving in the South Asian nation, Jolie, a special envoy of the UN Refugee agency UNHCR, went straight to a camp in Teknaf near the Myanmar border to talk to some of the 720,000 Muslims who fled a military clampdown in the neighboring state in August 2017.
The 43-year-old made no immediate public comment, but Cox’s Bazar district deputy police chief Ikbal Hossain told AFP that Jolie will be visiting more camps on Tuesday.
Jolie is in Bangladesh to assess the humanitarian needs of the one million Rohingya in camps around the town of Cox’s Bazar.

She has previously met with displaced Rohingya while in Myanmar in July 2015 and in India in 2006.
Bangladesh has been reeling since more than 730,000 Rohingya arrived from Myanmar after August 2017. More than 620,000 of the Muslims live in the Kutupalong camp, the world’s largest refugee settlement.
There were already about 300,000 in the camps before the exodus which has strained Bangladesh’s resources to the limit.
Jolie will conclude her visit by meeting Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen, and other senior officials in Dhaka, a UNHCR statement said.
The talks will focus on how the UNHCR can help Bangladesh’s efforts for the Rohingya and the need for “sustainable solutions” to settle the persecuted minority, the statement added.
The UN is to soon launch a new international appeal for $920 million to meet the needs of Rohingya refugees and the communities hosting them, the refugee agency said.

 


US officials push to revive Afghan peace talks

Updated 38 min 30 sec ago

US officials push to revive Afghan peace talks

  • High-level delegations in Kabul meet government, Taliban

KABUL: Top US officials including Defense Secretary Mark Esper and House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi are pushing for the revival of Afghan peace talks, despite President Donald Trump abruptly declaring the peace process dead.

Esper, who was making his first visit to Afghanistan as defense secretary, met President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah Abdullah.

“The aim is to still get a peace agreement at some point, that’s the best way forward,” Esper told reporters who were traveling with him.

Multiple rounds of talks to end the fighting have been held between the Taliban and diplomats in a process led by US Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad, with the Afghan government excluded at the insurgents’ insistence.

Pelosi, after meetings with Ghani and Abullah that were also attended by diplomats and the top US military commander in Afghanistan, said she had discussed the issue of peace talks with the Taliban.

“Our delegation received briefings from (US) Ambassador John Bass and other top diplomats on reconciliation efforts with the Taliban … We underscored that the women of Afghanistan must be at the table for reconciliation talks.”

Ghani discussed the Sept. 28 presidential election, bilateral matters and the peace process with Esper and Pelosi, his office said. 

“Peace is a priority for us, a peace which is led and owned by Afghans and the values of the constitution and women are protected in it,” a presidential palace statement cited him as saying.

Abdullah said he was backing the revival of talks and was ready to make a sacrifice for “real peace.”

“During a fruitful meeting with Pelosi, we exchanged views on the credibility of Afghan elections, credibility requisites, prospects for peace/political settlement. Peace is one of the priorities of the Afghan people and we are supporting these efforts and I am ready for any kind of sacrifice for gaining real peace and for the cessation of war.”

He, unlike Ghani, did not emphasize the need for the peace talks to be owned and led by Afghanistan, but stressed on keeping the gains made since the Taliban was removed from power.

Trump tasked Khalilzad with finding a peaceful solution to the war and the eventual withdrawal of US troops from the country. However the process was thrown into chaos when the president tweeted last month that he was canceling peace talks with Taliban leaders at Camp David after the group claimed responsibility for a Kabul attack that killed a US soldier and 11 other people.

Khalilzad made a surprise stopover in Pakistan earlier this month at the same time that Taliban delegates were on a visit to the country and, according to foreign media reports, discussed the revival of peace talks with the group which the US had toppled from power more than 18 years ago.

Waheed Mozhdah, an analyst who knows the Taliban’s leaders, said the US had already established contact with the group and was keen to sign a deal but was concerned about a potential political crisis between rivals Ghani and Abdullah who are the main candidates in the presidential poll.

The vote was twice delayed, while the initial results of the ballot have not yet been disclosed due to technical issues.

“Now everything has to wait for the result of the election … it seems the Americans are concerned that if it signs the deal with the Taliban now and a crisis begins due to the election, then it will make America’s position weak,” he told Arab News.

“Through these trips, American officials are trying to persuade both sides (Abdullah and Ghani) to respect the result of the election so that when the time of intra-Afghan dialogue starts with the arrival of a new government, the Taliban does not argue that there is a crisis with the government.”

He said Esper’s comments about troop withdrawal was part of the deal Khalilzad had discussed with the Taliban before Trump’s interjection. 

“Americans are confounded since Trump has come to power. First he pushed for the talks, then he canceled the talks and now wants them to be resumed,” he said.

Zubair Shafiqi, another analyst, said troop drawdown was a Trump goal that was aimed at his domestic audience and his re-election campaign next year.

He said Washington had come to the conclusion that the presidential election in Afghanistan would go to a second round, and that the visits by top US officials in recent weeks was aimed at telling leaders in Kabul that they had to brace for the formation of a broad-based interim set-up which should involve the Taliban too.

“I think Americans think that with the low turnout based on (last month’s) election, there will be no strong government in Afghanistan, so it is trying to convince the key sides that they have create a government in understanding with the Taliban,” he told Arab News.