US envoy: Afghan peace process entering ‘new stage’

Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry official Aftab Khokher with US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Islamabad on Sunday. (AP)
Updated 10 June 2019

US envoy: Afghan peace process entering ‘new stage’

  • Khalilzad meets Ghani, other politicians after his talks in Islamabad, Brussels
  • “In the end only the Afghans themselves, including the Taliban, can decide upon the future of their country”

KABUL: The Afghan peace process is entering a new stage, according to the US special envoy for reconciliation as he stressed the need for the country’s warring parties to formally meet and start their negotiations.

Talks to end the decades-long conflict in Afghanistan have been foundering as the Taliban refuses to meet Kabul representatives as it says the government is a puppet of the West. US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad says it is essential that the two sides come together.

An ice-breaker in April was canceled by Kabul after disagreements with the host nation Qatar. There is due to be an intra-Afghan meeting in Germany later this month.

Khalilzad, who arrived in Kabul late Sunday, met President Ashfraf Ghani and other politicians after his latest round of talks in Pakistan, Germany and Brussels.

“Good to be back in #Afghanistan. Plan to be here for some time on this trip. Will be consulting widely. Peace talks are entering a new stage and Afghans must be engaged more than ever. #AfghanPeaceProcess,” he tweeted to his 73,000 followers.

“Good meeting w/ Pres @AshrafGhani & his team. Discussed building further intl consensus for #peace. Also regional requirements & implications for peace including recent positive movement in AfPak relations & opportunities peace will provide for regional connectivity &development. As #AfghanPeaceProcess talks continue to progress, we agreed preparation for intra-Afghan negotiations now is essential.”

He briefed Ghani on his European trips and future plans, according to a statement issued by the presidential palace.

“The conversations of President Ghani and Dr. Khalilzad were mostly focused on intra-Afghan dialogue and both sides expressed happiness about the role of Germany in this regard and hoped for the earliest start of the first round of intra-Afghan dialogue,” read the statement. “The two sides hoped that the intra-Afghan talks will begin as soon as possible.”

Last month Germany said it had been talking with the Taliban and the Afghan government in an effort to restart the peace process.

“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,” Reuters reported Berlin’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Markus Potzel as saying. 

“In the end only the Afghans themselves, including the Taliban, can decide upon the future of their country.”

Khalilzad was appointed last summer and has held six rounds of talks with the Taliban, who are fighting to drive out US-led troops.

The focus of his meetings, held without Ghani’s officials, has largely been on the Taliban’s insistence of a complete drawdown of foreign troops in return for a guarantee from the militants that they will not use Afghanistan against any nation or Washington’s interests.

Ghani has been infuriated by the exclusion of government representatives from these meetings. He is standing for re-election, and Afghan politicians and Khalilzad want to hold the polls after a successful outcome of the talks so the Taliban can take part in the vote.

Analyst Fazl Ahmad Orya said Khalilzad’s current trip to Kabul was more important than his previous ones because he had built a consensus in the region and among major foreign powers about the peace process.

“He now wants to lay a foundation of talks among Afghans as his next step and the first major such meeting is scheduled to be held in Germany,” Orya told Arab News.

Politician and former presidential adviser Shahzada Masood said there were too many ambiguities and not enough details about the special envoy’s work. 

“Khalilzad has had no progress in his past rounds of meetings with the Taliban and he needs to share and clarify the details of his meetings with the Taliban in order to put an end to the ambiguity about the country’s future.”

He said foreign troop presence and the fate of the country after the peace deal were among the issues that needed addressing.

Khalilzad said on June 6 that the US and NATO would make a shared decision on remaining in Afghanistan or leaving the country.

Philippines and India agree to strengthen defense, security ties

In this handout photograph taken and released by Indian Presidential Palace on October 18, 2019, India's President Ram Nath Kovind (C-L) attends a press conference with Philippines' President Rodrigo Duterte (C-R) at Malacanan Palace in Manila. (AFP)
Updated 20 October 2019

Philippines and India agree to strengthen defense, security ties

  • The two leaders agreed to strengthen maritime security ties

MANILA: The Philippines and India have agreed to boost defense and security cooperation following talks between President Rodrigo Duterte and his Indian counterpart Ram Nath Kovind on Friday.
Kovind is in Manila as part of a five-day official visit to the Philippines that began on Thursday.
In a joint statement, Duterte said he and Kovind have committed to building a “partnership” between the Philippines and India “that enables us to face challenges to our hard-won progress, jointly and effectively.”
As Duterte welcomed India’s role in his country’s defense capability upgrade program, against the backdrop of growing security cooperation, he said they have agreed “to continue working together to fight terrorism and violent extremism and other transboundary threats.”
Kovind said “both of our countries have been victims of terrorism,” and the two leaders “committed to work closely to defeat and eliminate terrorism in all its forms
and manifestations.”
He added: “As two vibrant democracies that believe in a rules-based international order, respect for international law and sovereign equality of nations, the Philippines and India are natural partners in the pursuit of their respective national development and security objectives.”
The two leaders also agreed to strengthen maritime security ties.
“As countries strategically located in the Pacific and Indian oceans, we affirmed our shared interest to protect our maritime commons and advance the rule of law in our maritime domains,” Duterte said.


Indian President Ram Nath Kovind said ‘both of our countries have been victims of terrorism,’ and the two leaders ‘committed to work closely to defeat and eliminate terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.’

He added that they also discussed “the most pressing concerns of our region and beyond, such as maritime security and economic integration.”
Following their meeting, they witnessed the signing of maritime, tourism, science, technology and cultural agreements.
Among them was a memorandum of understanding between the Philippine Coast Guard and the Indian Navy to enhance maritime security by sharing information on nonmilitary and nongovernment shipping vessels between the two countries.
“With the signing of bilateral agreements, we have likewise widened the path toward enhancement of our engagement in maritime security, science and technology, tourism and cultural cooperation,” Duterte said.
“We hope to look back on this day as a milestone in our relations, the day when we set out to turn promise into reality, and potential into concrete benefits that bring the greatest positive impact on the lives of our peoples.”