Taliban say cease-fire, reduced violence after peace deal

In this file photo, US, Taliban and Qatar officials meet in Doha to discuss a peace agreement for Pakistan. (Reuters)
Updated 09 December 2019

Taliban say cease-fire, reduced violence after peace deal

  • US, Taliban are discussing details for signing the peace agreement, Taliban spokesperson says
  • Dialogue aimed at ending decades-old conflict in Afghanistan 

ISLAMABAD: Afghan Taliban’s spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, said on Monday that a cease-fire with the US and its NATO allies would be declared after the signing of the peace agreement, in order to resolve the protracted conflict in Afghanistan through a negotiated settlement.

“Everything – cease-fire, with all of the foreign troops, and an intra-Afghan dialogue are mentioned in the deal,” he said when questioned about the US’ repeated calls for a reduction in violence as a condition for the agreement.

Speaking to Arab News from Qatar – prior to the resumption of the peace talks which had entered its third day on Monday – Shaheen said that both the Taliban and Washington have already initiated the deal and were discussing the date of signing and other details.

“No date has been decided yet for the signing of the agreement. It could be signed any time, even today or after a week, but there is no decision yet,” he said.

Both groups restarted their formal peace negotiations on Saturday, the first such initiative of its kind after US President Donald Trump called off the talks in early September.

Trump’s decision followed the deaths of 12 people, including a US soldier, in a Taliban-induced bomb attack in Kabul.

The peace talks, which began last year, are aimed at striking a deal with the Taliban to end a decades-old conflict in Afghanistan which has now entered its 18th year. 

This would involve the withdrawal of US and foreign troops from the country in exchange for the insurgents’ guarantee of a cease-fire and that they would not use Afghanistan to launch attacks on other countries.

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 the negotiations.

“Peace agreement has already been finalized. There is nothing in the agreement to be amended as both sides have agreed upon on the draft. It has been initiated,” Shaheen said in an audio clip, adding that copies of the draft were with the Qatari government, the US and the Taliban.

Talking about prisoners' release, he said they would be freed in phases with the first group to be released before the start of the intra-Afghan dialogue.

“We will talk to all Afghan sides, including the Kabul administration, after the signing of the peace agreement with the US. The Kabul administration will be a party to the formal intra-Afghan negotiations. We will talk to everyone,” he said, adding that the intra-Afghan talks will start 10 days or two weeks after the deal is inked.

Earlier, Shaheen had told Arab News that the foreign ministers of 23 countries, officials from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the UN, and representatives from regional and neighboring countries would be attending the ceremony for the signing of the peace deal in Qatar, where the Taliban have their political headquarters.

India celebrates Republic Day with military parade

Updated 26 January 2020

India celebrates Republic Day with military parade

  • Schoolchildren, folk dancers, and police and military battalions marched through New Delhi’s parade route

NEW DELHI: Thousands of Indians converged on a ceremonial boulevard in the capital amid tight security to celebrate the Republic Day on Sunday, which marks the 1950 anniversary of the country’s democratic constitution.
During the celebrations, schoolchildren, folk dancers, and police and military battalions marched through New Delhi’s parade route, followed by a military hardware display.
Beyond the show of military power, the parade also included ornate floats highlighting India’s cultural diversity as men, women and children in colorful dresses performed traditional dances, drawing applause from the spectators.
The 90-minute event, broadcast live, was watched by millions of Indians on their television sets across the country.
Brazilian President Jair Messias Bolsonaro was the chief guest for this year’s celebrations.
He was accorded the ceremonial Guard of Honor by President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Rashtrapati Bhawan, the sprawling presidential palace.
Bolsonaro joined the two Indian leaders as the military parade marched through a central avenue near the Presidential Palace.
At the parade, Bolsonaro watched keenly as mechanized columns of Indian tanks, rocket launchers, locally made nuclear-capable missile systems and other hardware rolled down the parade route and air force jets sped by overhead.
Apart from attending the Republic Day celebrations, Bolsonaro’s visit was also aimed at strengthening trade and investment ties across a range of fields between the two countries.
On Saturday, Modi and Bolsonaro reached an agreement to promote investment in each other’s country.
Before the parade, Modi paid homage to fallen soldiers at the newly built National War Memorial in New Delhi as the national capital was put under tight security cover.
Smaller parades were also held in the state capitals.
Police said five grenades were lobbed in the eastern Assam state by separatist militants who have routinely boycotted the Republic Day celebrations. No one was injured, police said.
Sunday’s blasts also come at a time when Assam has been witnessing continuous protests against the new citizenship law that have spread to many Indian states.
The law approved in December provides a fast-track to naturalization for persecuted religious minorities from some neighboring Islamic countries, but excludes Muslims.
Nationwide protests have brought tens of thousands of people from different faiths and backgrounds together, in part because the law is seen by critics as part of a larger threat to the secular fabric of Indian society.