Japan’s capital braces for what could be heaviest rain in 60 years

This Oct. 10, 2019, satellite photo taken by NASA-NOAA's Suomi NPP satellite shows typhoon Hagibis approaching Japan, center left. (NASA Worldview, Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS) via AP)
Updated 11 October 2019

Japan’s capital braces for what could be heaviest rain in 60 years

TOKYO: A powerful storm approached Japan on Friday, threatening to batter its capital with the heaviest rain in 60 years, disrupting a Formula One Grand Prix and rugby’s World Cup and raising fears of transport chaos.
Typhoon Hagibis, which means “speed” in the Philippine language Tagalog, is due to make landfall on the main island of Honshu on Saturday, a month after one of the strongest typhoons to hit Japan in recent years destroyed or damaged 30,000 houses and caused extensive power cuts.
“The typhoon could bring record-level rainfall and winds,” an official at the Japan Meteorological Agency told a news conference.
The storm could be the strongest to hit Tokyo since 1958 and people should also prepare for high waves and storm surges, the JMA said.

Officials in the Chiba prefecture east of Tokyo, which was hit hard by typhoon Faxai a month ago, have told people to prepare supplies of food and water for up to three days.Japanese Formula One Grand Prix organizers canceled all practice and qualifying sessions scheduled for Saturday, adding that the qualifying round would be held on Sunday, before the final race takes place as planned.
The approaching super typhoon has already forced the cancelation of two matches of the rugby World Cup on Saturday, while a Sunday match between host Japan and Scotland is in doubt.
Airline ANA Holdings canceled all domestic flights to and from Tokyo’s two main airports from Friday afternoon.
It and rival Japan Airlines Co. canceled some flights to and from airports servicing the major cities of Osaka and Nagoya.
Most flights operating to and from those airports would be canceled on Saturday, both airlines said on their websites.
Train services, including Shinkansen bullet trains, are likely to be canceled over the weekend, operators have said.


Afghan delegates head online for crucial talks

Updated 01 June 2020

Afghan delegates head online for crucial talks

  • Peace hopes rest on virtual forum with Taliban amid virus threat

KABUL: Afghan government and Taliban delegates are expected to begin online talks in mid-June in a bid to end a decades-old conflict in the country, officials told Arab News on Sunday.

While past meetings have been held in person, the latest round of negotiations will take place online because of the threat of coronavirus in the war-ravaged country.

“We see no challenges, the atmosphere and preparations are all set for the talks,” Feraidoon Khawzoon, a spokesman for Abdullah Abdullah, newly appointed chief of the High Council for National Reconciliation, told Arab News.

Negotiations could begin in “the next 10 or 15 days,” he said.

“The announcement of a cease-fire, a reduction in violence and the exchange of prisoners were all requirements for the start of the talks, and we have had progress on them recently,” Khawzoon said.

On Wednesday the Afghan government released a list of 20 delegates due to hold peace talks with the Taliban.

The team will be led by Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai, a former spy chief who has held indirect negotiations with the militants in the past outside Afghanistan, he added.

In the lead-up to the talks, President Ashraf Ghani’s government will release 3,000 more Taliban prisoners, an official close to the Afghan leader told Arab News on condition of anonymity.

More than 2,000 Taliban inmates have already been freed as part of a historic peace deal in February.

In return, the Taliban released hundreds of government troops and, in a surprise move, announced a three-day cease-fire last week for Eid Al-Fitr.

The peace moves follow a buildup in fighting between the two sides despite the pandemic. Taliban attacks killed at least 146 people and injured 430 during Ramadan. 

Fears had been growing that the peace deal signed on Feb. 29 between the Taliban and the US would collapse.

The joint cease-fire followed talks in Qatar last week between the Taliban and Zalmay Khalilzad, US special representative for Afghanistan.

Khalilzad later traveled to Kabul for meetings with Afghan political leaders over a reduction in violence and an exchange of prisoners. 

“We welcome the Taliban’s decision to observe a cease-fire during Eid, as well as the Afghan government reciprocating and announcing its own,” Khalilzad said last Sunday.

Increasing Taliban attacks on government troops, and political infighting between Ghani and Abdullah over who would assume office as president, have delayed the talks.

After Washington failed to reconcile Ghani and Abdullah, both leaders agreed two weeks ago to share power, with Ghani leading the country for another five years and Abdullah appointed as chief of the peace talks.

Khalilzad described the cease-fire agreement as a “momentous opportunity that should not be missed,” and pressed both sides to agree on a new date to start negotiations.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also urged the two sides to start peace talks, with the release of prisoners as a first step. 

Pompeo said that he expected the Taliban “to adhere to their commitment not to allow released prisoners to return to the battlefield.”

Ghani said the release of Taliban inmates would be “expedited” and that his government’s negotiating team was ready to begin talks “as soon as possible.”

Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, could not be reached for comment on the Taliban’s stance.

In the past, the group has insisted it will take part in talks with Kabul only after all 5,000 Taliban prisoners are freed.

Experts hope the latest developments are a step in the right direction.

“The Taliban do not seem to have any reservations about the structure of the government team, so the hope is high that the talks will take place by June 15,” Wahidullah Ghazikhail, an analyst, told Arab News.

“Some of Taliban’s field commanders seem to be divided on the talks, hoping to capture power again after the departure of US forces (by next spring), while the political leaders are pushing for a political settlement,” he said.