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Alaturka Gazetesi

President, opposition agree to extend talks in S.Sudan

By Benjamin Takpiny

JUBA, South Sudan – (AA) South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit and opposition leader Riek Machar agreed Thursday to extend the deadline to form a power-sharing government after talks failed to resolve outstanding issues.

The agreement was formed after a face-to-face meeting between Kiir and Machar in Uganda, under the auspices of that country’s President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and Sudanese President Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Burhan. Kenya's Special Envoy on South Sudan, Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka, also attended the meeting.

The tripartite summit in Kampala, Uganda sought to resolve the South Sudan conflict and resulted in several resolutions, among which is extending the pre-transitional period for 100 days effective Nov. 12, with progress reviewed after 50 days, according to a communique obtained by Anadolu Agency.

The parties agreed to establish a mechanism that will also be established for guarantors and parties to supervise the implementation of talks.

The meeting also resolved to ask the Intergovernmental Authority on Development to address the status of Machar and urge the international community to continue to support the revitalized peace process in South Sudan.

Machar said last month he would not be part of the government if security is not completed.

“If there will be no government on the 12th (November), which there will be no government, we, [Sudan People's Liberation Movement-in-Opposition], won’t be there because we do not want to put the country into crisis. We will opt and contain the troops. None of the troops is going to be left out,” Machar said Sunday in a meeting with the United Nations Security Council in Juba.

He said critical issues must be resolved, security arrangements must be in place, at least, and a cease-fire the country have been enjoying this year will be raptured as peace is tired of suffering.

South Sudan slid into crisis when Kiir sacked Machar as vice president in December 2013 on suspicion of plotting a coup, followed by a protracted civil war that claimed the lives of tens of thousands and forced 4 million people to flee their homes.

Before a 2018 peace deal, five years of fighting between the two leaders crippled the country, with millions displaced and almost 400,000 people dead from violence and disease.

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China to host Afghan peace conference next week

By Islamuddin Sajid

ISLAMABAD (AA) – A fresh round of intra-Afghan dialogue is going to be held in China next week, a Taliban spokesman said on Wednesday.

Deng Xijun, China's special representative for Afghanistan, met with Taliban’s political chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Doha, Qatar’s capital, late Tuesday.

During the meeting, Xijun invited the Taliban to a Beijing conference, Taliban’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Anadolu Agency.

The Taliban, accepting the invitation, will send a delegation to attend the conference, Mujahid said.

China also invited Afghan government representatives and prominent Afghan leaders to the conference.

However, Mujahid clarified that all participants will attend the conference with their personal capacity, referring to the Afghan government representatives, who are also expected to participate in the talks.

The conference is expected to be held on Oct. 28-29 in Beijing which will be attended by prominent Afghan political leaders to explore ways for peace and reconciliation in the war-torn country and an end to the 19-year long conflict in Afghanistan.

China has close contact with the Taliban, as a group of representatives travelled to Beijing twice in recent months.

Most recently on Sept. 23, a Taliban delegation travelled to Beijing and met Chinese officials after the U.S. President Donald Trump abruptly announced to end peace talks with the Taliban.

In 2015, China hosted representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban in Urumqi, capital of China's Xinjiang province.

Earlier this month, U.S. representative for Afghan peace Zalmay Khalilzad met Taliban’s chief negotiator and co-founder Mullah Baradar in Islamabad, Pakistan, marking their first meeting since Trump ended talks with the Taliban.

Early September, Trump declared the peace talks with the Taliban "dead" following a recent attack in Afghanistan's capital Kabul which killed a dozen people, including a U.S. service member.

Following the U.S. move, the Taliban opened new battle fronts across the war-weary nation, as Afghan security forces — suffering casualties and desertions — struggle to beat back a revitalized insurgency.

On Monday, the U.S. State Department said Khalilzad departed for his visit to Brussels, Paris, and Moscow.

In Moscow, Khalilzad will meet with Russian and Chinese representatives “to discuss shared interests in seeing the war in Afghanistan come to an end,” the State Department said in its statement.

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Alaturka Gazetesi

Human suffering takes new face in Afghanistan

By Shadi Khan Saif

KABUL, Afghanistan (AA) – The tenacious spate of bloody violence in Afghanistan claimed more than 3,000 lives on all sides in the past two months amid escalating fighting having surrounded September's landmark presidential polls in the country.

Anadolu Agency's coverage in August and September indicates new highs in Taliban-claimed bombings and coordinated group assaults as well as aggressive air and ground operations by the Afghan and U.S. forces.

Taliban's synchronized assaults on four districts in the otherwise peaceful northern Takhar province forced more than 4,000 families to flee their homes in the last week of September.

Provincial assembly secretary Mohammed Azam Afzali told Anadolu Agency that the residents of several districts lost their livelihoods following the recent surge in clashes here.

A number of top officials from the Defense Ministry, Interior Ministry and the National Directorate of Security (NDS) rushed to Takhar in a bid to secure this strategically important part of the country.

The Afghan Interior Ministry claimed killing over 30 insurgents in clashes while the Taliban made much higher claims of casualties inflicted upon the government forces.

Mid-September was the worst period for Afghan civilians as violence spiked immensely amid the failed peace talks between the U.S and the Taliban and the scaled up government efforts to hold the Sept. 28 presidential polls staunchly opposed by the insurgents.

A drone strike hit and killed a group of 14 pine-nut farmers in Nangarhar forcing Mohammad Masoum Stanekzai, the head of the spy agency NDS, to resign.

On the very same day, Sept. 19, a Taliban-claimed suicide truck bombing devastated a public hospital in Zabul province, killing at least 20 people.

The massive bombing hitting the main public hospital in the province also left more than 90 others injured, Atta Jan Haq, the chairman of the provincial assembly, told Anadolu Agency.

It was the only public hospital in this remote province located between the restive Kandahar and Ghazni provinces — marred by the deadly insurgency.

Within days of these calamities, an air raid in the southern Helmand province caused at least 14 more deaths, including many civilians. The insurgents, fleeing a ground offensive of the security forces, attempted to hide in a group of civilians who were returning from a late Sunday night wedding ceremony when the aerial bombing hit them.

Just days ahead of the polls, at least 24 people, mostly civilians, were killed in another Taliban-claimed bomb attack on a campaign rally by President Ashraf Ghani in the city of Charikar, Parwan, 69 kilometers (43 miles) north of the capital Kabul.

Based in Kabul, columnist Gul Mohammad opined the appalling state of security affairs were directly linked to the presidential elections.

"The Taliban had publicly warned the Afghan people and the government against the elections, which they fear would give another five-year term to 'puppet regime' backed by the west," he said.

A month before, August saw massive group assaults by the Taliban in the restive northern provinces of Kunduz and Baghlan, besides multiple car bombing in the capital Kabul, causing death, destruction and panic. The rebels managed to briefly enter the major urban centers in Kunduz and Baghlan, but were pushed back by the security forces backed by the U.S. air power.

Human suffering took a new face in Afghanistan in August when a father was killed in a Taliban assault led by his son.

The incident took place on Aug. 26 in the northern Jawzjan province bordering Turkmenistan.

Elif Shah, the governor of Faizabad district of the province, told Anadolu Agency that Afghan army veteran Baaz Mohammad, 60, was killed along with his 11 colleagues by a group of Taliban assailants led by his son.

Days before his death, Mohammad, who was the commander of a pro-government force, underlined the importance of peace in the country in an interview with local Azadi Radio.

"We have imposed this calamity [war] on us due to our own absurdity. Only if we realize there be no other way [for resolution of the war] than peace agreement," he was quoted by the radio.

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Alaturka Gazetesi

Afghan peace process: Taliban, US envoy visit Pakistan

By Islamuddin Sajid

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AA) – A delegation of Afghan Taliban will visit Pakistan on Wednesday, a day after top U.S. peace negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad arrived in Islamabad, a Taliban spokesman said.

The delegation will meet Pakistani leadership to discuss the stalled peace talks with the U.S. and issues faced by Afghan refugees in Pakistan.

"Our 11 member delegation will visit Islamabad today on the invitation of the Pakistani government," Zabihullah Mujahid, Afghan Taliban spokesman, told Anadolu Agency over the phone.

Last month Pakistan extended an invitation for a visit to Islamabad, he added.

Recently Taliban leaders visited China, Russia and Iran after U.S. President Donald Trump abruptly canceled the peace talks with the group.

"Our leaders will discuss the recent peace talks with the U.S. and its cancellation with Pakistani officials," Zabihullah said, adding that the issues Afghan refugees face in Pakistan would also be discussed.

Zalmay Khalilzad, a top U.S. peace negotiator, has also arrived in Islamabad late Tuesday, according to local media.

He arrived in Islamabad as Pakistan was trying to bring Taliban leader Baradar to Islamabad for a possible meeting with Khalilzad, a leading Pakistan English daily, Dawn, reported.

But Taliban spokesman denied any scheduled meeting with the U.S. envoy Khalilzad in Islamabad.

"I have no information about the arrival of Khalilzad in Islamabad and there is no meeting scheduled with him during our delegation's visit to Pakistan," Zabihullah said.

On Sept. 9, Trump abruptly cancelled a meeting with the representatives of the Taliban and the Afghan government, planned in his country retreat Camp David.

Trump said that the peace talks with the Taliban are "dead", and the decision was made in retaliation for a recent attack in Afghanistan's Kabul, which killed a dozen people, including a U.S. service member.

The raging Afghan conflict is in its 18th year, with thousands of lives lost and millions forced to flee their homes. The UN repeatedly calls for an urgent need to seize opportunities for peace in the region.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan last month asked Trump to restart peace talks with the Taliban during their meeting on the sideline of the UN General Assembly session in New York.

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Afghan gov’t picks delegates to meet Taliban in Qatar

By Shadi Khan Saif</p> <p>KABUL, Afghanistan (AA) – The Afghan government on Tuesday finalized a list of delegates, including women, for peace talks with the Taliban later this month.</p> <p>Shah Hussain Murtazawi, deputy spokesman of President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, released a list of 250 politicians, government officials and civil society activists to hold talks with the Taliban in the Qatari capital Doha.</p> <p>Among the delegates are 52 women to represent the Afghan government for the next round of Doha talks with no dates announced yet.</p> <p>Officials said the talks among the U.S., the Taliban and representatives from Afghanistan would take place later this month.</p> <p>It is going to be a second interaction between the Afghan government and the Taliban past two months. A relatively smaller in size but high profile informal delegation led by former Afghan President Hamid Karzai met the Taliban in Russia’s capital Moscow in early February.</p> <p>“No one will partake in the conference [in Doha] as a representative of the Kabul administration. Just like the previous Moscow Conference, any individual who is part of the Kabul administration and is listed as a participant will only participate in a personal capacity and share personal views”, Zabihullah Mujahed, the Taliban spokesman, said earlier in April.</p> <p>In a latest tweet on Tuesday, Mujahed said the Taliban believe participation of women in peace talks is not necessary.</p> <p>“…women will partake in the upcoming intra-Afghan conference, just like those in Moscow. We said nothing relating to women in negotiation team &amp; neither do we believe it is necessary”.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special envoy for Afghan reconciliation, called on the Taliban for a ceasefire.</p> <p>“The quickest way to prevent casualties is to agree on a ceasefire. Taliban senior leadership should allow their representatives to come to the table and discuss. I will continue to press the case”, he said on Tuesday.</p> <p>The U.S.-led talks are aimed at ending the 17-year war in Afghanistan.

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Afghanistan ready to talk with Taliban in Qatar

By Shadi Khan Saif

KABUL, Afghanistan (AA) – In a landmark development, the Afghan government announced on Sunday it will send an official delegation to hold direct talks for peace with the Taliban in Qatar later this month.

Mohammad Umer Daudzai, special presidential envoy, told reporters in Kabul: “An inclusive official delegation will attend the Qatar meeting representing Afghanistan. ”

There has been no immediate response from the Taliban who have so far declined to talk with or recognize the Afghan government.

Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, is leading this recent push for talks with the Taliban. He returned to Kabul on Sunday after a brief visit to Pakistan in this connection over the weekend.

This comes after multiple rounds of talks between the U.S. and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar.

The next round of talks is set to take place later this month but no exact dates have been announced.

The U.S.-led talks are aimed at ending the 17-year war in Afghanistan.

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Afghan government to invite Taliban to Kabul

By Sayed Khodaberdi Sadat
KABUL, Afghanistan (AA) – The Afghan government will invite Taliban representatives to capital Kabul as part of ongoing peace efforts, a top official said Thursday.
“We will officially invite Taliban officials to the national peace meeting in the coming days, ” Mohammad Umer Daudzai, head of the High Peace Council tasked with striking a peace deal with the militants, told Anadolu Agency. Daudzai said the meeting would be attended by some 2,000 Afghan citizens, representing people from all walks of life, adding that he was expecting fruitful results following the participation of Taliban representatives.

He went on to say that he was expecting a second meeting between the Taliban, Afghan politicians and civil society representatives in Qatar, later this month.

“Following the national peace meeting, the Afghan politicians and NGOs will prepare to hold talks with the Taliban in Qatar. We hope for representation of the Afghan government in this meeting, ” he said.

Referring to peace negotiations between the U.S. and Taliban, he said the Afghan nation was not informed in a transparent manner and there were many questions to be answered.

Mohammad Yusuf Saha, a spokesman for former President Hamid Karzai, said the peace talks in Qatar on April 14-15 would be attended by a “powerful ” delegation comprising politicians and civil society representatives.

It is not yet known whether the Afghan government will attend the talks in Qatar where U.S. officials and Taliban representatives will gather.

The Afghan government is increasingly feeling sidelined as the Taliban are not willing to talk with Kabul, resulting in a stalemate.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, is meeting Afghan officials as part of his tour to the region.

Khalilzad has met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, a woman peace negotiation delegation and tribal leaders in southern Afghanistan.

The visiting top U.S. peace envoy on Tuesday acknowledged the importance of taking Afghan government on board in the peace process.

The Taliban still dominates many parts of Afghanistan, posing a great threat to the government led by Ghani and this situation leads to a serious security challenge in the country.

Despite the government's efforts to start peace talks with the Taliban in recent years and establishing the Peace Council, no concrete result has been achieved yet.

*Writing by Ali Murat Alhas

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Uzbekistan offers to host Afghan peace talks

By Shadi Khan Saif</p> <p>KABUL, Afghanistan (AA) – Uzbekistan offered to host direct talks for peace between the Afghan government and the Taliban, an official Afghan statement announced on Sunday.</p> <p>Tashkent and Kabul are working together closely on a number of regional development projects amid renewed warmth in bilateral ties. </p> <p>An Uzbek delegation, headed by National Security Adviser Viktor Mahmudov, and including Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov and other officials visited Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani at the presidency in the capital Kabul on Sunday.</p> <p>Ghani welcomed the growing regional cooperation that can promote stability.</p> <p>“President Ghani also appreciated the readiness of Uzbekistan to host peace talks, saying that Samarkand is a common cultural heritage of the two countries”, read a statement by the Afgan presidency.</p> <p>&quot;Minister Kamilov reaffirmed that Uzbekistan supports Afghan-led, intra-Afghan peace process and [is] ready to host meetings on Afghan Peace [process],&quot; it added.</p> <p>&quot;[Afghan National Security Adviser] NSA [Hamdullah Mohib] @hmohib thanked Uzbekistan for supporting peace talks and recognized other areas of mutual cooperation between two countries”, the Office of the National Security Council of Afghanistan tweeted following the meeting.</p> <p>It is pivotal to note that Kamilov went to meet the head of the Taliban’s political office in Qatar, Mulla Baradar Akhund, in Doha on March 3 and discussed prospects of peaceful settlement of the Afghan crisis. Both the Taliban and Tashkent have acknowledged this meeting.

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US envoy heads to UK as part of Afghan peace tour

By Sayed Khodaberdi Sadat

KABUL, Afghanistan (AA) – The U.S. envoy seeking a peace deal with Taliban visited the U.K. on Thursday as part of renewed efforts to end the 18-year war in Afghanistan.

“Briefly in London to consult with senior officials from Her Majesty’s government in pursuit of our shared goal of peace in Afghanistan and security for our countries, ” Zalmay Khalilzad said in a tweet.

In line with his tour which kicked off on Monday, Khalilzad is expected to visit Afghanistan, Belgium, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Jordan and Qatar.

He previously held a marathon round of talks with the Taliban in Qatar, and both parties reached some level of agreement on withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan and counter-terror efforts.

The Taliban and the U.S. are set to resume talks next month in Doha, Qatar. The Afghan government is increasingly feeling sidelined as the Taliban are not willing to talk with the Afghan government, resulting in a stalemate.

  • Writing by Ali Murat Alhas
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Qatari FM meets with US, Taliban officials in Doha

<p>By Ahmed Yusuf</p> <p>DOHA (AA) – Qatar’s foreign minister on Thursday met with U.S. and Taliban officials as part of ongoing efforts to achieve a degree of political reconciliation in Afghanistan, according to the Qatari News Agency (QNA).</p> <p>Qatari FM Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani met in Doha with Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan; Scott Miller, NATO commander in Afghanistan; and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, head of the Taliban's political bureau.</p> <p>According to the QNA, the four men reportedly discussed “the Afghan peace process and political talks now underway in Doha”.</p> <p>On Monday, the Qatari capital hosted a fresh round of peace talks between U.S. officials and representatives of the Taliban, which still refuses to talk to the Kabul government.</p> <p>The Taliban insists on the departure of all U.S. forces from Afghanistan, considering this a prerequisite for reaching a final peace deal with the government.</p> <p>Kabul, for its part, insists that any peace plan should be entirely “Afghan-led”.</p>