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Afghan minister should face probe: HRW

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NEW YORK: A prominent international watchdog body has called for the prosecution of new Afghan Defence Minister Assadullah Khalid, saying there is “credible evidence” linking him to serious human rights abuses.
In a statement issued on Saturday, the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Khalid’s appointment by President Ashraf Ghani last month “should have rung alarm bells not only in Kabul but in the capitals of Afghanistan’s major donors.” “That it didn’t say a lot about how little human rights matter to an increasingly shaky government, and to donors looking for an exit from the long Afghan war,” it added. The defense minister, who previously had governed volatile Kandahar and Ghazni provinces and served as the Afghan spy chief, is also accused of ordering the killing of five United Nations workers in a roadside bombing in April 2007 in Kandahar.
“Credible evidence of serious human rights abuses and war crimes linked to Khalid have followed him throughout his government career,” HRW said. “Reports first came to light during Khalid’s tenure as governor of Kandahar – a time when thousands of Canadian troops were based in the province.” “There is also strong evidence directly implicating Khalid in acts of sexual violence against women and girls when he was governor of Ghazni and Kandahar,” HRW said. “Khalid allegedly threatened his victims, saying ‘they would be killed and their families destroyed if they told anyone what had happened’.” The HRW report denounced Khalid’s appointment as an “opportunistic and callous move” by President Ghani to score to “short-term gains” in the upcoming Afghan presidential elections. President Ghani’s government has proved unwilling to criminally investigate Khalid but the United States and Canada have the authority under their respective laws to impose financial and travel sanctions on him, HRW insisted.
“The European Union and other donors should impose similar sanctions to send a clear message that returning a known human rights abuser to a position of authority is simply unacceptable.” The allegations against Khalid initially stemmed from his stint as the governor of Kandahar a decade ago – a time when thousands of Canadian troops were based in the province as part of the U.S.-led military coalition. “An official internal Canadian document described the allegations of human rights abuses attributable to Khalid as numerous and consistent,” the statement said. Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin had testified before a Canadian parliamentary commission in 2009 that Khalid perpetrated enforced disappearances and held people in private prisons. “The testimony included evidence of Khalid’s personal involvement in the torture of detainees. Chris Alexander, a senior Canadian official working with the United Nations in Afghanistan at the time, alleged that Khalid ordered the killing of five UN workers in a roadside bombing in Kandahar in April 2007.”

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Asia

Beijing says China, US are ‘mutually indispensable’

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DAVOS: China and the United States cannot do without one another, one of Beijing’s most senior officials said Wednesday, as the world’s two biggest economies struggle to end a damaging trade war.
“The Chinese and US economies are mutually indispensable, so their relations must be mutually beneficial and win-win,” Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan told an audience at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
“This is the reality: neither side can do without the other side,” said Wang, who plays a top role in resolving the US-China trade battle.
The annual conference in the Alpine ski resort was originally expected to see the two sides meet, but the White House canceled the US delegation’s trip due to the government shutdown in Washington.
Economic experts assembled in Davos are also worried about an economic slowdown in China, but Wang — a close ally of President Xi Jinping – said the economy was growing at a healthy pace.
“The number is 6.6 percent. I think this is a pretty significant number. Not low at all,” Wang told the audience, referring to the growth rate for 2018, the lowest in 28 years.
The IMF on Monday warned that the US-China trade confrontation was feeding global uncertainty and threatening to drag down world growth.

 

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Pakistan

Pakistan believes in friendly terms with all

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Legislation against corruption will be PTI govt.'s priority

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Service Attaches from different countries on Wednesday called on Speaker National Assembly Asad Qaiser and discussed matters related to important regional and international issues and Pakistan’s relations with different countries of the world.

The Speaker said that Pakistan is a peace loving country and believed in building friendly relations with all countries including its neighbors. He said that vast investment opportunities exist in Pakistan and foreign investors can take advantages from these opportunities. He said that the incumbent government in Pakistan has introduced investment-friendly policies in the country and taking steps to safeguard the investment of the foreign investors. Asad Qaiser said that Pakistan has an abundance of beautiful tourist resorts and the highest mountain ranges of the world due to which it has a lot of attractions for foreign tourists. \

He said that promotion of tourism was the prime concern of the present government. He said that people of Pakistan and its security forces have rendered matchless sacrifices in the war against terrorism and more than 70 thousand innocent citizens and personnel of security forces were martyred during this war.  He said that due to successful military operations by Pakistan, terrorism has been reduced to a great extent. He urged upon the Attaches to play their due role to portray the soft and positive image of Pakistan in their respective countries.

On this occasion, Secretary National Assembly Tahir Hussain briefed the participants about formation, functions and organizational structure of the National Assembly and its standing committees. The Foreign Attaches thanked the Speaker National Assembly for providing them the opportunity to visit the National Assembly of Pakistan. They said that they have learned a lot about legislative procedures and other functions of this supreme constitutional body during this visit.

 

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Politics

Syria Safe Zone: Erdogan meets Putin

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MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan met for Syria talks in Moscow on Wednesday, with Turkey saying they would focus on Ankara’s so-called “security zone” in northern Syria.
Russia and Turkey have agreed to coordinate ground operations in Syria following US President Donald Trump’s shock announcement last month about pulling 2,000 American troops out of Syria.
At the start of their meeting in the Kremlin, Putin addressed Erdogan as “dear friend,” saying that their countries “work on issues of regional security and actively cooperate on Syria.”
Erdogan used the same term for Putin in translated comments and said: “our solidarity makes a weighty contribution to the security of the region.”
The leaders were set to give a press conference after their talks.
The warm rhetoric came despite the fact that the two leaders are on opposite sides of the Syria conflict: Russia provides critical support to the Syrian government, while Turkey has backed rebel groups fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.
Despite this, they have worked closely to find a political solution to the seven-year conflict.
Turkey has welcomed Washington’s planned withdrawal from Syria but the future of US-backed Kurdish militia forces labeled terrorists by Ankara has upset ties between the NATO allies.
Erdogan said Monday he would discuss with Putin the creation of a Turkish-controlled “security zone” in northern Syria, suggested by Trump.
The US-allied Kurds, who control much of the north, have rejected the idea, fearing a Turkish offensive against territory under their control.
Moscow, a long-term supporter of Assad, is likely to oppose the plan, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last week saying Damascus must take control of the north.
Nearly eight years into Syria’s deadly conflict, the US pullout has led to another key step in Assad’s Russian-backed drive to reassert control.
Kurdish forces who were left exposed by Trump’s pledge to withdraw have asked the Syrian regime for help to face a threatened Turkish offensive.
The Kremlin hailed the entry by Syrian forces into the key northern city of Manbij for the first time in six years after Kurds opened the gates.
Moscow plans to organize a three-way summit with Turkey and Iran at the beginning of this year as part of the Astana peace process, launched by the three countries in 2017.
“So far, no date has been set but after negotiations with Erdogan, we will begin preparations for the trilateral summit,” Putin’s foreign policy aide Yury Ushakov told reporters last week.
The last meeting between Putin, Erdogan, and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani took place in Iran in September last year with the fate of rebel-held Idlib province dominating the agenda.
But in a separate briefing Wednesday, the Russian foreign ministry said the situation in the province remained of “serious concern”.
“The situation in the (Idlib) de-escalation zone is rapidly deteriorating. The territory has in fact been taken under full control by militants,” said ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.
Ties between Russia and Turkey plunged to their lowest level in years in November 2015 when Turkish
forces shot down a Russian warplane over Syria.
But after a reconciliation deal in 2016, relations have recovered with the remarkable speed with Putin and Erdogan cooperating closely over Syria, Turkey buying Russian-made air defense systems and Russia building Turkey’s first nuclear power plant.

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