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Former UNAMA chief warns peace talks ‘will not be easy’

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(Last Updated On: September 20, 2020)

Former UNAMA chief Tadamichi Yamamoto said this week peace talks, underway in Qatar between Afghanistan and the Taliban, will not be easy especially as there is a wide gap between the two parties when it comes to some key fundamental issues.

But it’s imperative that both parties continue their dialogue and reach an agreement, even though it might take time, he said.

Speaking to Japan’s daily, Mainichi, Yamamoto, who was head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Afghanistan until March this year, said it is important to remember that this is only the first step and that due to more than 40 years of conflict, since the Soviet-Afghan war in 1979, “the situation there has become complex over these years.”

He said the talks are a historic step toward peace – especially as the Taliban had previously refused to negotiate with the government.

But this was due, “greatly to efforts by the international community including the UN, but particularly the United States, Pakistan, and Qatar.”

Yamamoto stated there would be challenges in terms of finding common ground during the talks especially on fundamental issues such as the distribution of power and system of governance, and human rights issues such as women’s rights.

“Although the Taliban were ousted from power in 2001, they still proclaim themselves the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and have maintained that they have the legitimacy to rule the country. 

“They will likely insist on the Emirate as the form of government whereas the Afghan government would insist on the Republic as the form of government,” he said.

He said although the Taliban have stated that they respect women’s rights in accordance with Islam, the specifics remain unclear, “and we don’t know how much they will accept.”

“There is a wide gap between the two parties when it comes to some key fundamental issues, and patience will be needed for the talks to succeed,” he said.

He said however that when he spoke to the Taliban’s political delegation in Doha, during his term as UNAMA chief, the group said it had changed and had learned lessons from the past. 

“They are more conscious of how they are perceived by the international community. However, the Taliban are a large group, and as with any organization, members have different opinions.

“They appointed their chief justice and religious scholar Abdul Hakim Haqqani, a person close to the Taliban leader Hibatullah Akhundzada, as the head of its delegation in the talks. He is said to have conservative views. He was most likely appointed because the Taliban wanted to reassure their conservative members about the outcome of the negotiation,” he said adding that he did hope this appointment is indicative of the Taliban’s seriousness about the peace talks.

“Can the Taliban’s leadership with conservative thinking move forward with peacemaking? The talks would be a test as to whether the Taliban have really changed from its past,” Yamamoto stated. 

On the possibility of the Taliban taking advantage of the US troops withdrawal, to strengthen their offensive, Yamamoto said that “possibility should not be discounted.”

“While I was with the UNAMA, and spoke with the Taliban, we requested many times that the Taliban reduce violence, but they contended that violence is a negotiating leverage. They repeatedly claimed that they would not have been able to have their demands heard and hence would not have been sitting at the table without it. 

“What will become important, therefore, is ensuring that the peace talks would continue to make progress on a constructive path, through compromise from both parties so that the Taliban would not resort to violence,” he said.

Yamamoto also suggested that although the peace talks have to be Afghan-owned and Afghan-led, it is imperative for the international community to be ready to work as a mediator or facilitator in the event of an impasse. 

This, he said, would be to “propose ideas, persuade both parties, and sometimes even put pressure on them so that they are able to continue the talks.”

Yamamoto was head of UNAMA for more than five years before leaving in March and said in his farewell message at the time that he had only one wish – “a wish that I share with millions of Afghans: for peace to return to Afghanistan.”

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Elon Musk begins Twitter poll on reinstating Trump’s account

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(Last Updated On: November 19, 2022)

Twitter owner Elon Musk launched a poll Friday on the social media platform asking if former US President Donald Trump should be allowed back on the platform.

“Reinstate former President Trump,” Musk wrote in a post which garnered more than 4.4 million impressions at the time of publication, Anadolu Agency reported.

More than 55% of users voted “yes,” while 44% said “no.”

Hours earlier, the American billionaire implied that he was mulling whether to reinstate Trump’s Twitter account.

“Trump decision has not yet been made,” tweeted Musk, as he announced three high-profile reinstatements of accounts that were banned by the social media giant.

“Kathie Griffin, Jorden Peterson & Babylon Bee have been reinstated,” said Musk.

Trump had about 88.8 million followers when Twitter permanently suspended the former US president’s account in January 2021, citing his role in the Jan. 6 riot at the US Capitol and the potential for more violence.

Musk had forecast a Trump return in May when he called the expulsion “morally wrong and flat-out stupid.”

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IEA says it has eradicated war and corruption in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: November 17, 2022)

The Prime Minister of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, said at a meeting on Wednesday with officials from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) that the Islamic Emirate has been able to eliminate war and administrative corruption in the country and pave the ground for progress and development.

He said that the Organization of Islamic Cooperation has created an aid fund for Afghanistan and they will help Afghanistan in health, education, and other fields in addition to humanitarian aid.

An OIC official meanwhile said it will stand by Afghanistan and we will continue its cooperation with Afghanistan in the areas of prosperity, stability, and development.

The Prime Minister of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, Mullah Muhammad Hassan Akhund, meanwhile welcomed the delegation of the OIC, and said, “You will see the real facts and the efforts of the Islamic Emirate in various sectors.”

He said that the Islamic Emirate has been able to eliminate war, insecurity, murder, destruction, and corruption in the country.

In conclusion, the IEA will not allow anyone to use Afghanistan soil against other countries, he said. 

 

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Explosion in busy Istanbul street leaves at least 4 dead

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(Last Updated On: November 13, 2022)

An explosion on Istanbul’s popular pedestrian Istiklal Avenue on Sunday afternoon has left at least four people dead and a number of people injured, a senior official told Associated Press.

Istanbul Governor Ali Yerlikaya tweeted that the explosion occurred at about 4:20 p.m. Istanbul time and that there were deaths and injuries, but he did not say how many. The cause of the explosion was not clear.

Al Jazeera also reported at least four people were killed and 38 others injured.

However, according to the Associated Press, Turkey’s media watchdog imposed a temporary media ban on reporting of the explosion, which means broadcasters cannot show videos of the moment of the blast or its aftermath. 

The Supreme Board of Radio and Television has imposed similar bans in the past, following attacks, accidents and some political issues.

Footage on social media showed ambulances, fire trucks and police at the scene. Social media users said shops were shuttered and the avenue closed down.

Broadcaster CNN Turk meanwhile reported 11 people were injured. 

The avenue is a crowded thoroughfare popular with tourists and locals, lined by shops and restaurants.

Turkey was hit by a string of deadly bombings between 2015 and 2017 by ISIS (Daesh) and outlawed Kurdish groups.

 

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