Afghan chief executive slams president’s ‘wishlist’ peace plan

Afghan presidential candidates Abdullah Abdullah gestures as he speaks during an interview with AFP at the Sapedar Palace in Kabul on November 5, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 05 November 2019

Afghan chief executive slams president’s ‘wishlist’ peace plan

  • Abdullah said it is imperative for any future talks to include negotiators from the Afghan government
  • Abdullah’s position, not mentioned in the constitution, was created to end ongoing disputes that threatened political collapse

KABUL: Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah dismissed Tuesday a new peace proposal by his election rival President Ashraf Ghani as an unrealistic “wishlist,” and again questioned the validity of thousands of votes from recent polls.
US President Donald Trump in September ended year-long talks with the Taliban amid ongoing insurgent violence, leaving Afghans wondering what comes next in the gruelling conflict.
Ghani’s team last month released a seven-point proposal meant to build on those talks and bring an end to Afghanistan’s 18-year-old war with the Taliban.
While some observers have praised aspects of the detailed proposal for its scope, they question whether certain elements — including a call for a month-long Taliban cease-fire before talks resume — are feasible.
“To be honest, nobody has taken that so-called seven-point plan as a plan... it’s rather a wishlist,” Abdullah said in an interview with AFP.
“Nobody is taking it seriously — neither the people of Afghanistan, nor anybody.”
The US-Taliban negotiations centered on the Pentagon pulling troops in return for Taliban security guarantees, but drew scorn from Ghani’s government, which was systematically cut out because the insurgents do not recognize the administration.
Abdullah said it is imperative for any future talks to include negotiators from the Afghan government, be it led by him or by Ghani.
Any negotiating team “has to be inclusive. Government has to be a part of that,” Abdullah, 59, said in his sprawling official compound next to the presidential palace in the center of Kabul.
Abdullah is locked in a bitter election race with his next-door neighbor Ghani.
The two rivals squared off in a first-round vote on September 28 and election officials have repeatedly delayed announcing initial results, citing various technical problems.
In 2014, Ghani and Abdullah fought a close and angry race that sparked widespread allegations of fraud and saw the US step in to broker an awkward power-sharing agreement between the rivals under a unity government.
Abdullah’s position, not mentioned in the constitution, was created to end ongoing disputes that threatened political collapse.
There are signs this year’s election risks a repeat of 2014, with both Ghani’s and Abdullah’s camps alleging fraud.
But Abdullah, who has previously said he believes he secured the most votes, said he would “absolutely” respect the result of recent polls — if the process is fair and transparent.
On Monday, his team said problems remained with about 300,000 of the 1.8 million votes that the Independent Election Commission has said are valid.
The IEC had failed to communicate to the public what is happening in the counting process, Abdullah said, and “they have not explained it transparently to our representatives... more transparency is needed.”
This year’s vote is supposed to be the cleanest yet in Afghanistan’s young democracy, with a German firm supplying biometric machines meant to stop people from voting more than once.
But Abdullah said problems remain even with these high-tech votes, claiming that photos attached to some ballots had been taken from fake identity cards, and not actual voters.
Already, nearly a million of the initial votes cast have been purged owing to irregularities, meaning the recent election saw by far the lowest turnout of any Afghan poll.
With Afghanistan’s war the overarching concern, presidential candidates’ policy positions were often drowned out by US-Taliban talks, and for a while it looked like the election would get shunted aside to make way for ongoing negotiations.
When asked how he differs from Ghani, Abdullah said the president has proven himself to be a divisive figure who failed to live up to his promises, including his pledge to root out the rampant corruption endemic across the Afghan government.
He also accused Ghani of prioritising his grip on power over striving for peace.
Ghani’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Armenia accuses Azerbaijan of attacking settlements in disputed region

Updated 27 September 2020

Armenia accuses Azerbaijan of attacking settlements in disputed region

  • Armenia’s Defense Ministry said its troops downed 2 Azerbaijani helicopters and 3 drones in response to an attack
  • Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry said it launched a military operation along the “contact line”

YEREVAN: Armenia said early on Sunday that neighboring Azerbaijan had attacked civilian settlements in the Nagorno-Karabakh region and urged the population in the disputed region to seek refuge in shelters.
Armenia’s Defense Ministry said that its troops had downed two Azerbaijani helicopters and three drones in response to an attack it said began at 0410 GMT against civilian settlements, including the regional capital of Stepanakert.
“Our response will be proportionate, and the military-political leadership of Azerbaijan bears full responsibility for the situation,” the Armenian Defense Ministry said in a statement.
Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry, in turn, said it had launched a military operation along the “contact line,” a heavily-mined no-man’s-land that separates the Armenian-backed forces from Azeri troops in the region, Russian news agencies reported.
The ministry said that an Azerbaijani helicopter had been downed but that its crew had survived.

Meanwhile, Turkey vowed complete support for Baku and called on Armenia to give up its “aggression.”
“We will support our Azerbaijani brothers with all our means in their fight to protect their territorial integrity,” Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said in a statement.
Turkey is a key ally of Baku with close cultural and linguistic ties with Azerbaijan.
Ankara has no diplomatic relations with Yerevan due to a dispute over the mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire which Armenia says is a genocide.
“The greatest obstacle to peace and stability in the Caucasus is Armenia’s aggression, and it should give up this aggression which will throw the region into fire,” Akar said.
Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin “strongly” condemned the clashes and said Armenia “once again violated international law and (has) shown that it has no interest in peace and stability.”
He called on the international community to “say stop to this dangerous provocation” in a tweet.
“Azerbaijan is not alone. It has Turkey's full support,” Kalin added.
The Turkish foreign ministry in a statement went further, promising: “However Azerbaijan wants, we will stand by Azerbaijan in that manner.”
The two former Soviet countries have long been in conflict over Azerbaijan’s breakaway, mainly ethnic-Armenian region of Nagorno-Karabakh, and border clashes have intensified in recent months.
Armenia’s Foreign Ministry condemned what it called the “aggression of the military-political leadership of Azerbaijan” and said the Armenian side would deliver an appropriate military and political response.
Ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh declared independence during a conflict that broke out as the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.
Though a cease-fire was agreed in 1994, Azerbaijan and Armenia frequently accuse each other of attacks around Nagorno-Karabakh and along the separate Azeri-Armenian frontier.