Weekly Global Newscast |January 21- January 27 , 2019
US Envoy Holds Talks With Taliban in Qatar; Assures of Progress
The United States has confirmed that its envoy met the Taliban in Qatar as Washington seeks to negotiate an end to the 17-year-old war in Afghanistan. Zalmay Khalilzad, US special representative on Afghan reconciliation, met Taliban representatives in the Qatari capital Doha, the US State Department said.
‘The Taliban and the US envoys have officially met four times since July, in an attempt to find a negotiated settlement to the war in the embattled country. However, Wednesday’s comments mark the first time the US State Department has confirmed his meetings directly. The meeting came even though the Taliban claimed responsibility for an attack on Tuesday against an Afghan intelligence base in central Wardak province. A local official said at least 65 people were killed in the latest high-casualty attack in Afghanistan. Taliban officials who were privy to the peace talks said US officials taking part were concerned about deteriorating security and feared that a US troop withdrawal could lead to “terrorist groups” taking control in Afghanistan. A Taliban spokesman announced the meeting with Khalilzad, saying that the US accepted an agenda of “ending the occupation of Afghanistan and preventing Afghanistan from being used against other countries in the future.”’ Reported the Al Jazeera.
‘The U.S. peace envoy to Afghanistan said Saturday that “significant progress” was made during lengthy talks with the Taliban in Qatar and that he was traveling to Afghanistan for more discussions aimed at ending the country’s destructive 17-year war. Zalmay Khalilzad said on his official Twitter account that he wants to build on six days of meetings in Doha, the capital of Qatar. “Meetings here were more productive than they have been in the past,” he said without providing details. “We made significant progress on vital issues.” Taliban officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media said they have reached an understanding on the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops and that Afghan soil will not be used for attacks or threats against the U.S. or other countries.’ Rahim Faeiz and Kathy Gannon write for Washington Post.
Pashtun Rights Activist Alamzeb Mehsud Arrested in Pakistan
A prominent Pashtun rights activist has been presented in a Pakistani court after being arrested on charges of rioting and inciting hatred at a protest demonstration, rights activists say.
‘Alamzeb Mehsud, 26, was arrested in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, on Monday evening, video footage taken by activists from the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) showed. Mehsud’s vehicle was intercepted by police on a busy thoroughfare, with armed police officers forcing him to disembark and be taken into custody, the footage showed. An unidentified man, wearing plain clothes, was seen waving a pistol at Mehsud in the footage. “He was presented in court today [Tuesday] and the court has ordered he be kept in police custody for four days,” said Mohsin Dawar, a PTM leader and member of parliament. Since early 2018, the PTM has organised dozens of mass protests against rights abuses allegedly committed by the Pakistani military in its war against the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and its allies.’ Asad Hashim writes for Al Jazeera.
‘A Pakistani activist affiliated with a group that has angered the country’s powerful military with its campaign against disappearances was arrested on Monday, an MP said, leading Amnesty International to call for him to be charged or immediately released. Alamzeb Mehsud was picked up by police and security officials in plain clothes in the southern metropolis Karachi, said parliamentarian Mohsin Dawar, causing a social media outcry fearing that he was the latest activist to go missing in the South Asian nation. Karachi police did not respond to requests for comment on the matter. Mehsud is a founding member of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) that has called for answers to the thousands of unresolved missing persons cases in Pakistan, primarily from the ethnic Pashtun region bordering Afghanistan. PTM leaders hold Pakistan’s army responsible for the scores of disappearances that have taken place during military operations against Taliban militants in the region. The army has said it does not detain individuals without evidence.’ Reuters reported for Dhaka Tribune.
Middle East & North Africa
Qatar to Disburse Millions in Gaza Aid With UN Help
Qatar will adopt a new formula for getting aid into Gaza after the Palestinian enclave’s rulers Hamas rejected a cash injection over unacceptable Israeli conditions on allowing it through. The Qatari ambassador to the Gaza Strip, Mohammed al-Emadi, said on Friday his country would now channel millions of dollars into humanitarian projects “in full coordination with the United Nations”.
‘The latest development comes as fresh clashes erupted in the Gaza-Israel buffer zone between Palestinian protesters and Israeli forces, leaving at least one person dead. Since Palestinians began holding almost-daily rallies along the Israeli fence at the borders with Gaza in March 2018, more than 250 protesters have been killed – and thousands more wounded – by Israeli army gunfire and tear gas volleys. Demonstrators are demanding the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in historical Palestine, from which they were driven in 1948 to make way for the new state of Israel. On Friday, Qatar’s al-Emadi said besieged Palestinians in Gaza have the right to demonstrate “to show their suffering to the world”.’ Associated Press reported for Al Jazeera.
‘Thousands of Palestinians converged on post offices throughout the Gaza Strip to receive the payments, which were handed out under the supervision of the Qatari Committee for the Reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, which is headed by El-Amadi. Each family will receive $400 in four instalments, sources in the Gaza Strip said, and that at least 50,000 families will benefit from the Qatari grant. The remainder of the funds will be invested in humanitarian and infrastructure projects, which will be carried out in cooperation with the UN in the next few months. Saleh al-Arouri, a senior Hamas official based in Lebanon, said on Friday that his movement “will not allow Israel to evade the understandings” regarding the Gaza Strip that were reached under the auspices of Qatar, Egypt and the UN. Hamas, he said, “does not accept blackmail.”’ Khalid Abu Toameh writes for The Jerusalem Post.
Sub Saharan Africa
Nigeria’s Main Female Candidate Quits Presidential Race
The main female candidate in Nigeria’s upcoming presidential election said she is withdrawing her candidacy to help build a coalition to defeat the ruling All Progressive Congress. Oby Ezekwesili of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN) announced her decision on Thursday in a series of posts on Twitter.
‘Only the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have won the country’s presidential elections since the restoration of democratic rule in 1999. Ezekwesili’s withdrawal leaves incumbent Muhammadu Buhari and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as the main contenders for the election, slated for February 16. Political commentator Gbenga Soloki told Al Jazeera the decision to form a coalition against the main parties won’t change the political landscape. “I don’t really see the alleged force staging any upset. The electorate are largely illiterate, who are either having sympathy for the ruling All Progressives Congress or the major opposition PDP,” Soloki said. “The timing is wrong and will not produce any appreciable result. Then comes the issue of sincerity of those in the third force. Nigeria is not ripe for such,” he added. Ezekwesili, a two-time minister and former vice president for Africa at the World Bank, cofounded the #BringBackOurGirls campaign to raise awareness about the more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by the armed group Boko Haram in 2014.’ Fidelis Mbah writes for Al Jazeera.
Ezekwesili said she took the decision to withdraw from the February 16 polls in order to form a coalition capable of defeating the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the major opposition party. “I have decided to step down from the presidential race and focus on helping to build a Coalition for a viable alternative to the #APCPDP in the 2019 general elections,” the statement read. “This coalition for a viable alternative has now more than ever before become an urgent mission for and on behalf of the citizenry. “Over the past three months, I have been in private extended talks with other candidates to make a coalition possible that would allow Nigerians to exercise choice without feeling helplessly saddled with the #APCPDP.” Next month’s election is seen by many as a two-horse race between incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari of the APC and Nigeria’s former vice-president Atiku Abubakar of the PDP. Ezekwesili of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN) declared her intention to run for Nigerian president last October.’ Aanu Aadeyo writes for CNN.
Thousands Protest as Greek Parliament Delays Macedonia Vote
Thousands of people have demonstrated in Greece’s main cities and on the country’s northern border against a historic deal to end a decades-long name dispute with Macedonia.
‘Police said more than 2,000 protesters gathered outside parliament in Athens on Thursday, as legislators debated the agreement reached between the two countries last year which would see the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) renaming itself North Macedonia, and Greece lifting objections to its northern neighbour joining NATO and the European Union. The vote in the Greek parliament to approve the name change was expected to take place on Thursday evening, but was pushed to Friday amid heated debates. “There is an unprecedented high number of MPs who want to speak,” Nikos Voutsis, the parliamentary speaker, said, adding the vote is now scheduled to take place on Friday at 12:30 GMT. According to Voutsis, close to 230 MPs wanted to have their say before the vote would take place.’ Associated Press reported for Al Jazeera.
‘MPs in Greece have narrowly voted to ratify an agreement with its northern neighbour state Macedonia that will see the latter formally change its name. In return for rebranding itself the “Republic of North Macedonia”, the country will now be able to pursue its application to join Nato and the EU without opposition from Athens as relations between the two states return to normal. The deal passed with 153 votes in the 300-member Greek parliament, two more than needed. It had faced heated opposition and cost prime minister Alexis Tsipras his parliamentary majority after a right-wing partner in the governing coalition quit in protest.’ Joe Sommerlad writes for the Independent.
US Government Shutdown Ends Without Trump’s Border Wall
The US Senate and the House of Representatives voted unanimously on Friday to end a 35-day partial federal government shutdown with legislation to temporarily fund many agencies, but without the $5.7bn President Donald Trump had demanded for the current financial year to help build a wall on the US-Mexico border.
‘The US Senate and the House of Representatives voted unanimously on Friday to end a 35-day partial federal government shutdown with legislation to temporarily fund many agencies, but without the $5.7bn President Donald Trump had demanded for the current financial year to help build a wall on the US-Mexico border. Late on Friday, Trump signed the bill, which will provide funding through February 15 and end the longest government shutdown in the US history. Earlier in the day, in an apparent about-face on his demand for the wall funding, Trump announced that a deal had been reached. “I am very proud to announce today that we have reached a deal to end the shutdown and reopen the federal government,” Trump said at the White House.’ Associated Press reported for Al Jazeera.
‘Republican senators struck down a bill that would have temporarily reopened the federal government on Thursday, falling short of the 60 votes required to defeat a GOP filibuster. The measure would have reopened federal agencies through 8 February to allow time for negotiations, an approach Republican leadership tried last month before being undercut by Donald Trump. The president is now refusing to reopen the government until he gets a deal on funding for his long-sought border wall. Polls have shown that the public is blaming Mr Trump for the shutdown and his approval numbers have sunk as the impasse drags on. The partial government shutdown is now in its 34th day. Federal workers are on the verge of missing another paycheck Friday. Democrats also blocked Mr Trump’s request for $5.7bn to construct the wall, with a partisan 50-47 vote. The $350bn government-wide funding bill represented the first attempt by Republicans controlling the Senate to reopen the government since the shutdown began.’ Chris Riotta and Clark Mindock write for the Independent.