US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad met with the four female negotiating team members in Doha late Friday and said they are determined to protect the rights of Afghan women should any peace deal be signed.
Khalilzad arrived in Doha, Qatar two days ago and has met with the teams from the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban, in what is believed to be a bid to get the stalled talks back on track.
On Saturday, Khalilzad posted on Twitter and said he had met with Fawzia Koofi, Sarabi Habiba, Fatima Gailani and Sharifa Zurmati to “hear their thoughts on Afghanistan’s future.”
“These members of the Afghan negotiating team are determined to defend the rights of Afghan women and push for an end to the war and respect for the rights of all Afghans.
“Their success is Afghanistan’s success. We stand with them,” said Khalilzad.
Hard-fought successes for women in Afghanistan have become a focal point in the talks – especially as the Taliban team does not have a single female member on its negotiating team.
On Friday, Khalilzad said in an interview with NPR that it is probably the first time the Taliban has women sitting across from them at the peace talks tables.
He also said that the female members of the Afghan team say they are being respected in the negotiating room and that “they engage the Taliban directly and protect or defend their rights. I think that’s positive.”
“And we have told the Talibs that since they want to be treated as a normal player and have good relations with the United States as part of a future Afghan government, what happens with regard to the rights of women will be a key factor in shaping US policy with regard to that government.
“Discrimination against women – going back to the situation that existed under the Taliban and closing schools for girls and young women, in other words – could be a red line that would have the most negative effect on US policy towards Afghanistan,” Khalilzad said.
UN Security Council to meet over situation in Afghanistan
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is scheduled to hold a meeting on Tuesday that will focus on the current situation in Afghanistan.
UNSC members are expected to discuss economic, humanitarian and security concerns.
Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) spokesman Bilal Karimi said the IEA welcomed meetings that are held with the aim of cooperating with the government and people of Afghanistan.
He also said that Afghans expect cooperation and that such meetings must be held in accordance with international laws and principles.
However, the IEA still does not have a designated UN representative – one year after taking control of the country.
Instead, Naseer Ahmad Faiq, who assumed leadership of the Afghan mission to the UN in December last year, will address the security council members.
The IEA does not however recognize him as the legitimate envoy to the UN.
In a series of tweets on Monday, Faiq said that he would address the security council meeting and speak on behalf of Afghans.
“On behalf of Afghans, in this important meeting, like always, I would like to raise the voice of my nation,” he said.
In September last year, the IEA asked the UN to accredit Suhail Shaheen, the head of the IEA’s political office in Qatar, as the new ambassador.
But in December, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution in which it indefinitely delayed a decision over the rival claims to the representative seat for Afghanistan.
At the time, the IEA criticized the UN’s failure to decide on this issue, saying it was ignoring the rights of the Afghan people.
Influential Muslim cleric al-Qaradawi dies at 96
Senior Muslim cleric Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi, who was based in Qatar, died on Monday, according to a post on his official Twitter account.
The cleric was an Egyptian Islamic scholar and was chairman of the International Union of Muslim Scholars.
He was best known for his programme al-Sharīʿa wa al-Ḥayāh (“Sharia and Life”), broadcast on Al Jazeera, which has an estimated audience of 40–60 million worldwide.
He is also known for IslamOnline, a website he helped to found in 1997 and for which he served as chief religious scholar.
Al-Qaradawi published more than 120 books, and received eight international prizes for his contributions to Islamic scholarship, and is considered one of the most influential Islamic scholars today.
Al-Qaradawi has long had a prominent role within the intellectual leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Egyptian political organization, although he repeatedly stated that he was no longer a member. He has over the years been critical of Egypt’s President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi.
US spy satellite launched into orbit from California
A classified satellite for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office launched into orbit aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta 4 Heavy rocket on Saturday.
The NROL-91 spy satellite lifted off at 3:25 p.m. from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California’s Santa Barbara County, AP reported.
It was the last launch of a Delta 4 from the West Coast. Additional launches are planned from Florida before the Deltas are replaced by ULA’s next-generation Vulcan Centaur rockets.
The Delta IV Heavy configuration first launched in December 2004. This was the 387th flight of a Delta rocket since 1960 and the 95th and final launch from Vandenberg.
The National Reconnaissance Office is the government agency in charge of developing, building, launching and maintaining U.S. spy satellites that provide intelligence data to policymakers, the intelligence community and Defense Department.
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