US peace envoy to Afghanistan in Beijing for meeting

Zalmay Khalilzad, US peace envoy to Afghanistan, said they made “substantive” progress in the latest talks. (File/AFP)
Updated 11 July 2019

US peace envoy to Afghanistan in Beijing for meeting

  • US embassy spokesman said there are improvements on all four issues
  • Latest talks opened the chance for intra-Afghan negotiations and a cease-fire

BEIJING: The US peace envoy to Afghanistan is in Beijing for a previously scheduled meeting, an American Embassy spokesman said Thursday, amid signs of new momentum in efforts to end Afghanistan’s 17-year war and push by China to boost its influence in the region.
The spokesman gave no further details about the visit by Zalmay Khalilzad, but it comes just days after he said that for the first time he can report “substantive” progress on all four issues key to a peace agreement. The spokesman spoke on routine condition of anonymity.
Khalilzad said the latest round of talks with the Taliban had been the “most productive” yet, and had broadened to include a timeline for both intra-Afghan negotiations and a cease-fire.
Along with Pakistan, Iran and Russia, China is gaining growing influence in Afghanistan even as the United States spends billions of dollars to support the Afghan National Security Forces.
China has hosted talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government and has substantial interests in the country’s mineral wealth, as well as in reducing the chances of the nation’s violence and chronic instability flowing across the two countries’ narrow border in the remote Wakhan corridor region.
China has secured rights to Afghanistan’s Mes Aynak copper deposit, believed to contain about 450 million tons of the metal worth tens of billions of dollars. However, poor security and economic chaos in the country have prevented development of the mine, which also sits on an ancient Buddhist pilgrimage site
Afghanistan’s ambassador to China, Janan Mosazai, said last year that Beijing is helping Afghanistan set up a mountain brigade to bolster counterterrorism operations, but that no Chinese troops would be stationed in the country. Along with that military assistance, China has also provided equipment and training to Afghanistan’s government.
Despite the denials of Chinese military activity in the area, unconfirmed reports have shown what appear to be Chinese military vehicles operating in the Wakhan corridor, which lies in the shadow of the Hindu Kush mountains with Tajikistan to the north and Pakistan to the south.
Afghanistan is also an observer member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a Beijing-led bloc, which experts see as seeking to challenge the Western-led order and counter American influence in Central Asia.


Japan weighing visit by Iran’s President Rouhani

Updated 09 December 2019

Japan weighing visit by Iran’s President Rouhani

  • Japan has been trying to forge a possible mediator role as tensions rise between its ally US and Iran
  • If the trip is confirmed, Rouhani would become the first Iranian president to visit Japan since 2000

TOKYO: Japan is weighing inviting Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani for a state visit, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday, as local media reported the trip was likely to happen this month.
Japan has been trying to forge a possible mediator role as tensions rise between its ally Washington and Tehran.
Local media has reported in recent days that Rouhani is likely to visit Tokyo around December 20, with some reports saying Washington has green-lighted the trip.
“A visit by President Rouhani to Japan is now under consideration,” Abe said at a press conference marking the end of the year’s parliamentary session.
“Japan, which has an alliance with the US and at the same time has maintained favorable relations with Iran for a long time, must forge its own path,” he said.
“I want to make diplomatic efforts as much as possible to help ease tensions and stabilize the situation in the region by continuing dialogue patiently,” he added.
If the trip is confirmed, Rouhani would become the first Iranian president to visit Japan since 2000.
Japan and Iran have maintained a good relationship despite recent regional turmoil, with resource-poor Japan heavily reliant on imports of oil from the Middle East.
Abe traveled to Iran in June and met Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as well as Rouhani. He met Rouhani again in New York during this year’s UN General Assembly.
The proposed visit comes as tensions remain high between Tehran and Washington, despite a prisoner swap last week.
On Sunday, Rouhani announced a “budget of resistance” against US sanctions targeting the country’s vital oil sector.
US President Donald Trump began imposing punitive measures in May 2018, after unilaterally withdrawing from an accord that gave Iran relief from sanctions in return for limits on its nuclear program.