Taliban ‘will visit Pakistan if formally invited’

Taliban representatives during the peace talks on Afghanistan held in Moscow. (TASS)
Updated 24 July 2019

Taliban ‘will visit Pakistan if formally invited’

  • Imran Khan: I will meet the Taliban and I will try my best to get them to talk to the Afghan government

ISLAMABAD: The Afghan Taliban will visit Pakistan in the “coming weeks” if a formal invitation is extended, it said on Wednesday, after Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said he would meet Taliban leaders to persuade them to hold negotiations with the government in Kabul.

During an appearance at the US Institute of Peace on Tuesday, Khan said: “I will meet the Taliban and I will try my best to get them to talk to the Afghan government.”

The US and the Taliban are getting closer to a deal expected to center on a US pledge to withdraw troops in exchange for a Taliban promise not to use its forces to interfere in US affairs. The group has refused so far to hold direct talks with the administration of President Ashraf Ghani, which it considers a “puppet” regime.

Earlier this month, three Afghan government officials joined a delegation of over 50 people at an intra-Afghan conference in Doha, also attended by Taliban political envoys to discuss the future of the war-ravaged country. 

The Taliban insisted that the officials were only present in a personal capacity, and not as representatives of Ghani.

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said on Wednesday a visit to Pakistan could take place in the coming weeks.

“We travel to other countries in the world and hold meetings,” he told Arab News via telephone from Doha. 

“Pakistan is a neighboring Muslim country. Members of the political office of the Islamic Emirate will visit Pakistan if a formal invitation is extended to us. We will discuss the issue of refugees and other related issues.”

There are now reports that Khan has discussed his plan to receive Taliban leaders in Pakistan with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who has given his go ahead, despite requesting Islamabad not meet with the group several months ago.

Taliban and US representatives are scheduled to resume talks in the coming days to remove differences on a timeframe for the withdrawal of foreign forces.

Even as talks continue, the Taliban and Afghan forces have continued fighting. Seven civilians were accidentally killed by the regime in an attack on a militant position south of the capital on Monday.


Russia warns Belarus will pay price for contractors’ arrests

Updated 05 August 2020

Russia warns Belarus will pay price for contractors’ arrests

  • Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, said that the Belarusian leadership has turned bilateral ties into “small change in the election campaign”
  • Medvedev described the arrested contractors as part of a “simple political technology — to create an enemy image and to achieve a political result using that enemy image”

MOSCOW: Russia’s security chief described the arrest of 33 Russian private military contractors in Belarus as a presidential campaign stunt and warned Wednesday that it would have grave consequences for ties between the two neighbors and allies.
Authorities arrested the Russian contractors outside the capital of Minsk last week on charges of planning to stage mass riots, amid an upsurge of opposition protests ahead of the Sunday election — in which Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is seeking a sixth term.
Russia has demanded the release of the contractors for a private firm, saying they only were in Belarus because they missed a connecting flight to another country. The government in Minsk has further irked Moscow by raising the possibility that some of the contractors could be handed over to Ukraine, which wants them on charges of fighting alongside Russia-backed separatists.
Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, sharply raised the stakes in the dispute Wednesday, saying that the Belarusian leadership has turned bilateral ties into “small change in the election campaign.”
Without mentioning Lukashenko by name, Medvedev described the arrested contractors as part of a “simple political technology — to create an enemy image and to achieve a political result using that enemy image.”
“It’s not only offensive, it’s very sad,” said Medvedev, who served as Russia’s president in 2008-2012 and then as prime minister for the next eight years, before becoming No. 2 in the Security Council chaired by President Vladimir Putin. “And it will entail sad consequences, too.”
Throughout his 26 years in office, the authoritarian Lukashenko has relied on Russian subsidies and loans to shore up his nation’s Soviet-style economy but fiercely resisted Moscow’s push for control over Belarus’s economic assets.
The Kremlin turned the heat up on the Belarusian president earlier this year by withdrawing some of the subsidies and warning the government it would have to accept closer economic and political integration to continue receiving Russian energy at a discount.
Lukashenko denounced Moscow’s position as part of Russia’s alleged efforts to deprive Belarus of its independence.
The 65-year-old president alleged in a state-of-the-nation address on Tuesday that another group of “militants” had been sent to southern Belarus, but gave no details. He warned Moscow against trying to fuel tensions in his country, saying that the instability could spread to Russia.
In a move certain to anger the Kremlin even more, Lukashenko had a phone call Wednesday with the president of Ukraine. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy asked for Belarus to hand over 28 of the arrested Russians so they can be prosecuted for allegedly fighting alongside Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine.
Belarusian authorities claimed the arrested contractors worked for the Wagner company. The private military firm is linked to Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian businessman who was indicted in the United States for meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.
Wagner has allegedly deployed hundreds of military contractors to eastern Ukraine, Syria and Libya.