US, Taliban to continue peace talks on Sunday

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The Taliban's former envoy to Saudi Arabia Shahabuddin Delawar (L) arrives with Taliban Qatar spokesman Suhail Shaheen (C, behind) and Taliban negotiator Abbas Stanikzai (C, front) to attend the Intra Afghan Dialogue talks in the Qatari capital Doha on July 7, 2019. (AFP)
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US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad attends the Intra Afghan Dialogue talks in the Qatari capital Doha on July 8, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 08 December 2019

US, Taliban to continue peace talks on Sunday

  • Focus of resurrected talks to be intra-Afghan dialogue and a cease-fire – US official
  • Anas Haqqani who was just freed in a prisoner swap has joined Taliban negotiating team, spokesman tweeted

ISLAMABAD: The Taliban and the United States will continue their peace talks in Qatar on Sunday, as they try to resolve the protracted conflict in Afghanistan through a negotiated settlement.

The two sides restarted formal peace negotiations on Saturday, the first such initiative after President Donald Trump’s decision to call off talks in early September, an American official privy to the developments, told Arab News.
Trump’s earlier decision to halt talks came in reaction to the deaths of 12 people, including a US soldier, in a Taliban-induced bomb attack in Kabul.
“The US rejoined talks today in Doha. The focus of the discussions will be reduction of violence that leads to intra-Afghan negotiations and a cease-fire,” the official said.
In a Twitter post, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen also confirmed the resumption of talks and said they would continue on Sunday.
"The talks started from where they were stopped. We discussed signing of the agreement. Talks will continue tomorrow (Sunday),” Shaheen tweeted.
Shaheen also said Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, head of the Taliban political office, led the Taliban side during negotiations.
In a separate tweet, Shaheen said Anas Haqqani, who was among the three Taliban leaders freed in a high profile prisoner swap earlier this month, had also joined talks as a member of the Taliban negotiating team. 
The peace talks, which began last year, aimed at striking a deal with the Taliban to allow the 18 year war in Afghanistan to end. This would involve the withdrawal of US and foreign troops from Afghanistan in exchange for the insurgents’ guarantee of a cease-fire and that they would not use Afghanistan to launch attacks on other countries.
Earlier on Wednesday, the State Department had said that US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, would be discussing next steps with the Taliban for intra-Afghan negotiations and “a peaceful settlement of the war, specifically a reduction in violence that leads to a cease-fire.”
A day later, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told Arab News that formal peace negotiations would resume with the US in a few days.
This followed Khalilzad’s meetings with Afghan leaders, including President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and several political leaders in Kabul on Thursday.
On Wednesday, the presidential palace issued a statement saying that the meeting would focus on “the cease-fire and Taliban hideouts outside the 
President Ghani told Khalilzad that both issues should be taken seriously in order to take the peace process forward.
The Taliban and the US had finalized the peace agreement in August – at the conclusion of the ninth round of talks –but the signing of the deal was blocked after Trump’s abrupt decision to call off negotiations.


Ready to mentor Saudi cricketers on the kingdom’s request — Shahid Afridi

Updated 13 min 36 sec ago

Ready to mentor Saudi cricketers on the kingdom’s request — Shahid Afridi

  • Says cricket would be hugely popular in Saudi Arabia given that it is home to millions of Pakistani expats
  • Pakistani minister said this week Islamabad working on “practical steps” to promote cricket in Saudi Arabia 

KARACHI: Pakistani all-rounder and former skipper Shahid Khan Afridi has said he is ready to mentor Saudi cricketers if the kingdom seeks his help.
The comments come in the wake of a meeting between the ambassador of Saudi Arabia to Pakistan, Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki, and Pakistan’s Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination, Dr. Fehmida Mirza, this month in which they discussed cooperation in the field of sports, with a focus on cricket.
“If I get a request [to train Saudi cricketers] I will definitely go as this is our own county and the people are our own,” Afridi said in an interview with Arab News at his home in Karachi this week.
The 40-year-old cricketer, fondly known as Boom Boom, captained the national team between 2009 and 2011, before retiring from international cricket in 2017. He is well-known for his philanthropic work across Pakistan and has formerly worked with UNICEF and a number of national organizations.
“I have been to Saudi Arabia previously,” he said, detailing his many trips to the Kingdom. “In my opinion there should be cricket [in Saudi Arabia]. There is our [Pakistani] community, which also likes to play cricket,” he said, referring to three million Pakistani expats who reside in the kingdom.
Pakistani minister Mirza said this week that Pakistan was working on “practical steps” to collaborate with Saudi Arabia to promote sports in the Kingdom, particularly cricket.
“I believe in sports diplomacy,” Mirza told Arab News in an interview on Monday. “The matter [of cooperation in cricket] has been taken with Ehsan Mani, chairman, Pakistan Cricket Board. We are working on practical steps to collaborate in promotion of sports, especially cricket.”
According to a statement issued by Mirza’s office, during her meeting with the Saudi ambassador last week, he said cricket was becoming popular in Saudi Arabia because of the Pakistan cricket team, which had a following in the country.
“We want to utilize Pakistan’s rich experience in the field of cricket and promote it in Saudi Arabia,” Al-Malki was quoted in the statement as saying.