Taliban says talks with the US enter fourth day in Qatar

The US said Tuesday it had resumed talks with the insurgents in Qatar, where special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad was meeting Taliban representatives. (File/AFP)
Updated 24 January 2019
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Taliban says talks with the US enter fourth day in Qatar

  • Washington has been stepping up efforts for a peace deal that could pave the way for the Taliban's participation in the next government
  • Washington wants the insurgents to enter talks with the Afghan government, but they have long refused

KABUL: Negotiations between the Taliban and US officials in Qatar entered a fourth straight day Thursday, according to the insurgents, as the two sides pursue a potential deal to bring an end to Afghanistan's 17-year conflict.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed to AFP that "discussions are still ongoing".
"We will talk in detail later when we reach agreement," the spokesman added.
Washington has been stepping up efforts for a peace deal that could pave the way for the Taliban's participation in the next government.
"Both sides are discussing the various aspects of the US troops' withdrawal," a senior Taliban commander based in an unknown location in Pakistan told AFP, adding that a statement could be released later in the day or on Friday.
The Pakistan foreign ministry also confirmed that talks were ongoing between the two sides. However, there was no immediate comment from the US embassy or NATO in Kabul.
The US said Tuesday it had resumed talks with the insurgents in Qatar, where special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad was meeting Taliban representatives.
Rahimullah Yusufzai, an expert on the Taliban, said the continuation of the talks represented "unprecedented" progress.
"I have never seen anything like this before," he said.
"This is the first serious effort. And it has continued since July... they have agreed to disagree and continued to meet. That's why it's unprecedented."
Talks have primarily focused on three major points: the withdrawal of US troops, a vow to prevent Afghan soil from being a base for attacks on other countries, and a potential ceasefire, according to Yusufzai.
Washington wants the insurgents to enter talks with the Afghan government, but they have long refused, denouncing Kabul as a US puppet.
The talks come after Khalilzad spent the weekend in Pakistan where he met with Prime Minister Imran Khan as part of a regional tour that saw the envoy shuttling between India, China and Afghanistan.
The US is not the only country engaged in talks with the militants.
Russia and Iran have held meetings with the Taliban in recent months, while China has also made overtures. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Pakistan are all participating in the US efforts.
"Pakistan has influence with the group, and the Russians also are somewhat supporting the Taliban," said Ateequllah Amarkhail, a Kabul-based military analyst.
"The meetings will continue in the future," he added.
The resumption of talks comes over a month after President Donald Trump ordered a halving of the 14,000 US troops in Afghanistan as he voices eagerness to end America's longest-ever war, launched in 2001 after the September 11 attacks.


Media urged to deny Christchurch shooting accused the publicity he seeks

Updated 5 min 4 sec ago
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Media urged to deny Christchurch shooting accused the publicity he seeks

  • “We’re just going to be very careful we don’t become a platform for any kind of extremist agenda,” say Radio New Zealand chief
  • Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern earlier urged the public not to speak the gunman's name to deny the infamy he wants

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand: The media has been urged to stop naming the man charged with the shootings at two mosques in Christchurch last week that left 50 people dead.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Tuesday that she would never speak his name. In a speech to parliament, she urged the public to follow suit and deny the gunman the infamy he wants.
“I implore you, speak the names of those who were lost, rather than the name of the man who took them,” she added. “He may have sought notoriety but we in New Zealand will give him nothing, not even his name.”
Arden said the media can “play a strong role” in limiting coverage of extreme views such as his.
“Of course, people will want to know what is happening with the trial,” she said. “But I would hope there are ways that it could be covered without adding to the notoriety that this individual seeks.
“But the one thing I can assure you – you won’t hear me speak his name.”
The man accused of the mass shootings has so far been charged with one count of murder, but New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush has said further charges will be brought against him. The man said in a manifesto posted online shortly before the attacks that he intended to survive so that he could continue to spread his ideals, and that he intends to plead not guilty. He has said he plans to represent himself in court, although a judge can order a lawyer to assist him.
There have been calls for the media to refuse to report anything he says during the trial. Paul Thompson, the chief executive of Radio New Zealand, said his station will exercise caution and asked editors at all media outlets to take part in a discussion about covering the case.
“We’re just going to be very careful we don’t become a platform for any kind of extremist agenda,” he said, explaining that the station does not want to inflame the situation or become a party to the accused killer’s agenda.
Thompson described the case as “uncharted territory” but said he remains confident that his reporters will do their jobs professionally.
Dr Philip Cass, a senior lecturer in journalism at Auckland’s Unitec Institute of Technology, said the media will have to make “a very fine judgment” about what is reported if the accused killer uses the court as “a forum for the expression of his opinion.” He was wary, however, of calls to completely avoid reporting what is said in court.
“If you do that then we are moving into an area of censorship,” he said, adding that it is the media’s responsibility to provide a record of what is said and done.
Dr Catherine Strong, a journalism lecturer at Massey University, said she is confident that the media in New Zealand media will act responsibly. There is no legal or ethical imperative for journalists to report everything the accused says in court, she pointed out. The country’s media has already shown maturity by not using the name of the accused in headlines and by focusing on covering the shootings from the perspective of the victims, Strong added.

Hal Crawford, the chief news officer at MediaWorks, which owns TV3 and RadioLive in New Zealand, said, "Newshub is open to an industry-wide set of guidelines for reporting on Tarrant's trial, and we are in discussions with other newsrooms. Our aims are to minimise publicity of damaging ideology while reporting the workings of justice objectively." 

The man, who has not yet entered a plea, is due to appear in court again on April 5.