Afghan peace talks likely to start next month — Pakistan ambassador

In this file photo, Zahid Nasrullah Khan, Pakistan's ambassador to Afghanistan, holds a press conference at the Pakistan embassy in Kabul on August 8, 2019. (AFP)
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Updated 30 June 2020

Afghan peace talks likely to start next month — Pakistan ambassador

  • Pakistan is Afghanistan’s top trading partner and is seen as a key regional player in helping facilitate the peace process
  • The envoy says rising violence is a concern for Pakistan as attacks have picked up in Afghanistan in recent months

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan said on Monday that negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban were expected to begin soon but that the release of 5,000 prisoners and a reduction of violence were the final hurdles.

Pakistan is Afghanistan’s top trading partner and is seen as a key regional player in helping facilitate a February troop withdrawal deal between the United States and the Taliban to begin the process of ending nearly 19 years of war.

The agreement was intended to quickly lead to talks between the militant group and the Afghan government, but became mired in delays.
Pakistan’s ambassador to Kabul, Zahid Nasrullah Khan, told Reuters in an interview he was “cautiously optimistic” and that talks could begin next month, so long as the final issues were overcome.

“The two important things are the level of violence – that it should be kept low to have an enabling environment — and to reach that magic figure of 5,000 prisoners (released),” he said.

Reuters reported on Friday that progress was being made over the release of a few hundred controversial Taliban prisoners and that the issue would likely be resolved soon.

However, Khan raised concerns at growing violence. Attacks have picked up around the county in recent months. On Monday, at least 23 civilians were killed in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province when rockets hit a cattle market.

“The rising violence is a concern for Pakistan as it is for other countries who want to see the US-Taliban agreement implemented in letter and spirit and to reach the first milestone of the (intra-Afghan negotiations),” he said. “We have been persuading the Taliban to show that the violence level remains down; it’s very important.”

Khan said negotiations need to begin as soon as possible so a cease-fire agreement could be struck, which the Taliban have so far refused.


England confirm Pakistan Test dates

Updated 06 July 2020

England confirm Pakistan Test dates

  • The first match of the Pakistan series will take place at Old Trafford
  • Venues are considered bio-secure, with hotels on site

LONDON: England cricket chiefs on Monday confirmed dates and venues for Pakistan’s three-Test tour, with the series starting at Old Trafford on Aug. 5.

International cricket returns on Wednesday following the coronavirus lockdown when England play the first match of their three-Test series against the West Indies at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton, followed by two matches at Old Trafford, in Manchester.

The first match of the Pakistan series will also take place at Old Trafford, with the second two at the Ageas Bowl. The second Test starts on Aug. 13, with the third beginning on Aug. 21.

Both venues are considered bio-secure, with hotels on site.

Old Trafford will also host three Twenty20 international matches between England and Pakistan, on Aug. 28, 30 and Sept. 1.

Ireland will play three one-day internationals at the Ageas Bowl on July 30, Aug. 1 and Aug. 4.

ECB chief executive Tom Harrison said: “Confirmation of these matches against Ireland and Pakistan is another important step for our game as we begin to safely stage international cricket again, but also to minimize the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had, and will continue to have, on cricket at all levels.

“It has taken significant effort and expertise to allow us to reach a position where cricket is now ready and able to return to the field of play from the elite level to recreational cricket.”

Talks are ongoing over potential dates for Australia’s white-ball tour and England women’s tri-series against India and South Africa.