US, Taliban resume peace talks after three-month lull

US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is also trying to lay the groundwork for negotiations between Afghans on both sides of the protracted conflict. (Reuters)
Updated 08 December 2019

US, Taliban resume peace talks after three-month lull

  • Move to end decades-old conflict plaguing Afghanistan

ISLAMABAD: The Taliban and the US restarted their formal peace negotiations on Saturday, the first such initiative of its kind since President Donald Trump’s decision to call off the talks in early September, an American official privy to the developments told Arab News.

Trump abandoned the talks after 12 people, including a US soldier, were killed by a Taliban bomb attack in Kabul.

“The US rejoined talks today in Doha. The focus of the discussions will be reduction of violence that leads to intra-Afghan negotiations and a cease-fire,” the official said.

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen also confirmed that the talks had been resumed.

In a tweet, he added that the head of the Taliban’s political office, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, represented the insurgents in the negotiations.

“The talks started from where they were stopped. We discussed signing of the agreement. Talks will continue tomorrow (Sunday),” he said.

Anas Haqqani, brother of the Taliban’s deputy chief Sirajuddin Haqqani, has joined the talks as a member of the negotiating team. Anas was one of three Taliban leaders freed in a prisoner swap on Nov. 19.

The peace talks are aimed at striking a deal with the Taliban to allow US and foreign troops to withdraw from Afghanistan in exchange for the insurgents’ guarantee to provide security.

Earlier on Wednesday, the State Department had said that US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, would be discussing the next steps with the Taliban for the intra-Afghan negotiations and “a peaceful settlement of the war, specifically a reduction in violence that leads to a cease-fire.”

It followed Khalilzad’s meetings with Afghan leaders, including President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and several political leaders in Kabul on Thursday.

On Wednesday, the presidential palace issued a statement saying that the meeting would focus on “the cease-fire and Taliban hideouts outside the country.”

President Ghani told Khalilzad that both issues should be taken seriously to take the peace process forward.

The Taliban and the US had finalized the peace agreement in August — at the conclusion of the ninth round of talks –but the signing of the deal was blocked after Trump’s abrupt decision to call off the negotiations.

However, in conversation with American troops at the Bagram Air Base last week, Trump said that the Taliban wanted a deal and had also agreed to a cease-fire.


China bans wild animal trade until viral outbreak eases

Updated 7 min 26 sec ago

China bans wild animal trade until viral outbreak eases

  • Raising transporting or selling all wild animal species is forbidden until the epidemic is over
  • The virus has caused 56 confirmed deaths and nearly 2,000 total infections
BEIJING: China on Sunday ordered a temporary ban on the trade in wild animals as the country struggles to contain a deadly virus believed to have been spawned in a market that sold wild animals as food.
Raising, transporting or selling all wild animal species is forbidden “from the date of the announcement until the national epidemic situation is over,” said a government directive.
The ban was issued by the Ministry of Agriculture, the State Administration for Market Regulation, and the National Forestry and Grassland Administration.
The lethal virus, which has caused 56 confirmed deaths and nearly 2,000 total infections in China, and spread to about a dozen countries, is believed to have originated in a market in the central city of Wuhan, where a range of wildlife was reportedly sold.
Conservationists have long accused China of tolerating a shadowy trade in exotic animals for food or as ingredients in traditional medicines, including highly endangered species such as the pangolin or tiger.
Health experts say the trade poses a significant and growing public health risk as potentially dangerous animal-borne pathogens that people would normal not be exposed to make the jump to humans.
The SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) virus that killed hundreds of people in China and Hong Kong in 2002-03 also has been traced to wild animals, with scientists saying it likely originated in bats, later reaching humans via civets.
Civets, a cat-like creature, were among dozens of species listed on an exhaustive price list for one of the animal-trading businesses at the Wuhan market that emerged online last week.
Other items included various rats, snakes, giant salamanders and even live wolf pups.
Sunday’s announcement said all businesses, markets, food and beverage outlets and e-commerce platforms are “strictly prohibited from trading in wild animals in any form.”
It added that “consumers must fully understand the health risks of eating wild animals, avoid wild game, and eat healthy.”
The so-called bushmeat trade, along with broader human encroachment on wild habitats, is bringing humans into ever-closer contact with animal viruses that can spread rapidly in today’s connected world, scientists say.
A study by the Global Virome Project, a worldwide effort to increase preparedness for pandemics, estimated that there are nearly 1.7 million undiscovered viruses in the animal kingdom, nearly half of which could be harmful to humans.
Peter Daszak, a virology expert with the project, told AFP its research also indicated that we can expect around five new animal-borne pathogens to infect humanity each year.
China has launched previous crackdowns on the wildlife trade, including after SARS, but conservationists say the trade typically resumes over time.