China, Pakistan to look at including Afghanistan in $57 bln economic corridor

(L to R) Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif attend a joint news conference after the 1st China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Foreign Ministers’ Dialogue in Beijing, China, December 26, 2017. (Reuters)
Updated 26 December 2017
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China, Pakistan to look at including Afghanistan in $57 bln economic corridor

BEIJING: China and Pakistan will look at extending their $57 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to Afghanistan, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Tuesday, part of China’s ambitious Belt and Road plan linking China with Asia, Europe and beyond.
China has tried to position itself as a helpful party to promote talks between Pakistan and Afghanistan, both uneasy neighbors ever since Pakistan’s independence in 1947.
Their ties have been poisoned in recent years by Afghan accusations that Pakistan is supporting Taliban insurgents fighting the US-backed Kabul in order to limit the influence of its old rival, India, in Afghanistan.
Pakistan denies that and says it wants to see a peaceful, stable Afghanistan.
Speaking after the first trilateral meeting between the foreign ministers of China, Pakistan and Afghanistan, Wang said China hoped the economic corridor could benefit the whole region and act as an impetus for development.
Afghanistan has urgent need to develop and improve people’s lives and hopes it can join inter-connectivity initiatives, Wang told reporters, as he announced that Pakistan and Afghanistan had agreed to mend their strained relations.
“So China and Pakistan are willing to look at with Afghanistan, on the basis of win-win, mutually beneficial principles, using an appropriate means to extend the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to Afghanistan,” he added.
How that could happen needs the three countries to reach a gradual consensus, tackling easier, smaller projects first, Wang said, without giving details.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif said his country and China were “iron brothers,” but did not directly mention the prospect of Afghanistan joining the corridor.
“The successful implementation of CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) projects will serve as a model for enhancing connectivity and cooperation through similar projects with neighboring countries, including Afghanistan, Iran and with central and west Asia,” he said.
India has looked askance at the project as parts of it run through Pakistan-administered Kashmir that India considers its own territory, though Wang said the plan had nothing to do with territorial disputes.
China has sought to bring Kabul and Islamabad together partly due to Chinese fears about the spread of Islamist militancy from Pakistan and Afghanistan to the unrest-prone far western Chinese region of Xinjiang.
As such, China has pushed for Pakistan and Afghanistan to improve their own ties so they can better tackle the violence in their respective countries, and has also tried to broker peace talks with Afghan Taliban militants, to limited effect.
A tentative talks process collapsed in 2015.
Wang said China fully supported peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban and would continue to provide “necessary facilitation.”
The Belt and Road infrastructure drive aims to build a modern-day “Silk Road” connecting China to economies in Southeast and Central Asia by land and the Middle East and Europe by sea.


Etihad tells pilots they can join rival Emirates on secondment

Updated 40 min 45 sec ago
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Etihad tells pilots they can join rival Emirates on secondment

  • Etihad Airways has told its pilots they can join rival Emirates on a temporary basis for two years
  • The agreement is also likely to help Emirates, where a pilot shortage forced it to cancel some flights this summer

DUBAI: Etihad Airways has told its pilots they can join rival Emirates on a temporary basis for two years, according to an internal Etihad email seen by Reuters, as the downsizing of the Abu Dhabi carrier’s operations helps fill a pilot shortage for Dubai’s Emirates.
Etihad, which last week reported a $1.5 billion annual loss, has been overhauling its business since 2016, replacing its top executive, dropping unprofitable routes and shrinking its fleet.
The agreement is also likely to help Emirates, where a pilot shortage forced it to cancel some flights this summer. Management had said the shortage was a short-term issue.
In the email, Etihad said pilots who join Emirates on a two-year secondment would be placed on a leave of absence, retain seniority at Etihad, and receive their salary and full benefits from the Dubai airline.
Pilots were asked in the email to register a non-binding expression of interest and told that Emirates’ recruitment team would meet with pilots at Etihad’s offices.
Two sources separately told Reuters that Etihad had emailed staff announcing the agreement with Emirates.
An Etihad spokesman told Reuters secondment programs were common practice among airlines, enabling the effective management of pilot resources.
“This is something Etihad Airways has done for several years with partner airlines around the world,” the spokesman said.
An Emirates spokeswoman told Reuters the airline was “working with Etihad on a secondment program for some of their pilots.”
It was not immediately clear how many pilots would be offered temporary employment at Emirates and the email stated that any pilots applying for the secondment would need to complete Emirates’ training program.
Etihad employs 2,200 pilots, according to the airline spokesman. Reuters reported in January that Etihad had offered up to 18 months unpaid leave to pilots.
Emirates and Etihad have been exploring closer ties and signed a security pact in January, the first agreement between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) based airlines. Emirates has since said that a closer relationship was not about a merger.
Emirates and Etihad, backed by their state owners, have competed developing global networks from their respective hubs in Dubai and Abu Dhabi that are just 128 kilometers apart.
Emirates is owned by the government of Dubai, and Etihad is owned by the government of Abu Dhabi.