Talks start in Norway as Taliban delegation meets Afghan representatives

Untold India January 24, 2022

ISTANBUL: Amid the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, the Taliban delegation on Sunday started three-day talks with Afghan civil society representatives, the Norwegian authorities, and officials from international community in Oslo. On the first day of the talks hosted by Norway, the Taliban delegation led by acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi held a closed-door meeting with Afghan civil society representatives. Abdul Qahar Balkhi, spokesperson for the interim Afghan Foreign Ministry, confirmed on Twitter that the Taliban delegation met with a number of “Afghan personalities” in Norway’s capital Oslo. “During the meeting, the participants listened patiently to each others’ opinions and exchanged views on the current situation in the country. “They affirmed that Afghanistan is the shared home of all Afghans, and stressed that all Afghans need to work together for the political, economic and security prosperity of the country,” a joint statement read. The participants agreed that “understanding and joint cooperation are the only solutions” to Afghanistan’s problems, the statement further said. “All participants, with one voice, declared such meetings to be in the interest of the country,” it added. The parties also thanked Norway for “providing such an opportunity”. The statement did not mention who were the participants of the meeting. Concerned about the “grave” humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, Norway said Friday that it will be hosting Taliban representatives for talks in Oslo on Jan. 23-25. Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt said Norway is “extremely concerned about the grave situation in Afghanistan, where millions of people are facing a full-blown humanitarian disaster.” “In order to be able to help the civilian population in Afghanistan, it is essential that both the international community and Afghans from various parts of society engage in dialogue with the Taliban,” she added. Taliban regained power in August 2021 amid the withdrawal of foreign forces and collapse of the US-backed government. The interim administration, however, has yet to gain international recognition. While international funding remains largely suspended, billions of dollars of the country’s assets abroad, mostly in the US, are also frozen. According to the UN humanitarian coordination office OCHA, half of the population now faces acute hunger, over 9 million people have been displaced, and millions of children are out of school.– AA

continue reading

Yemen massacre sparks global criticism

Untold India January 23, 2022

The attacks by Saudi warplanes on two locations, in particular, marked another ugly episode in the seven-year war. Footage shows bystanders searched through rubble with their bare hands to rescue those trapped at a temporary holding facility in the city of Saada and a telecommunications center in the port city of Hodeidah. The airstrike at the holding facility for migrants killed nearly 90 people and Doctors Without Borders initially said the number of injured was “around 200” but added the true number is feared to be much higher. At the time of writing, Yemen’s Ministry of Health put the casualties in Saada at 266, including 87 dead, with the process of exhuming the victims still continuing. Medics say at least six civilians have been killed and 18 others injured in the attack on Hodeidah. The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the air raids. Guterres’s spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, said further deadly airstrikes had been reported elsewhere in Yemen with children among those killed. The Yemeni capital Sanaa has also been the scene of another night of heavy airstrikes across the city. In a statement, Dujarric denounced the airstrike on telecommunications facilities in Hodeidah saying it “has also significantly disrupted vital internet services across much of the country. The Secretary-General calls for prompt, effective and transparent investigations into these incidents to ensure accountability.” Dujarric added “the Secretary-General reminds all parties that attacks directed against civilians and civilian infrastructure are prohibited by international humanitarian law. He further reminds all parties of their obligations under international humanitarian law to ensure that civilians are protected against the dangers arising from military operations, adhering to the principles of proportionality, distinction, and precaution” According to Save the Children, at least three children were killed after reportedly playing in a nearby football field when the missiles struck Hodeidah. The airstrike that damaged a vital telecommunication center in the city that controls Yemen’s internet access, resulted in a nationwide internet blackout. Aid workers continue to clear the rubble with more casualties including women and children expected to be discovered in both cities. Save the Children’s Director in Yemen, Gillian Moyes says “Yemen continues to be one of the most dangerous places to be a child today, and children are bearing the brunt of this crisis. They are being killed and maimed, watching as their schools and hospitals are being destroyed, and denied access to basic lifesaving services. They are asking us: does it matter if I die?” Moyes added that the initial casualties report from Saada is horrifying. Migrants seeking better lives for themselves and their families, Yemeni civilians injured by the dozens, is a picture we never hoped to wake up to in Yemen”. “While all Save the Children staff are accounted for, the internet outage is expected to reduce our capacity to operate in the coming days if not fixed.” The humanitarian organization for children says Yemen’s hospitals, schools, water infrastructure, and roads are in disarray after nearly seven years of conflict, further disrupting the lives of children and their families. The escalation in attacks across Yemen resulted in a 60% increase in civilian casualties in the last three months of 2021, with 2022 already poised to have wider consequences for civilians. This comes after member states of the UN Human Rights Council voted last year to end the body’s mandate of experts investigating war crimes in Yemen. The UN mission in Yemen said it is “gravely concerned” about the latest Saudi attacks in Hodeidah noting that “the consequences of continued military confrontation in Hodeidah could be catastrophic for Yemenis, given the importance of the Hodeidah ports, which remain a critical lifeline for the population”. Yemen is reliant on imports for nearly all its food and fuel; around 90% of which come through Hodeidah’s Red Seaport. The Norwegian Refugee Council said the strike was “a blatant attack on civilian infrastructure that will also impact our aid delivery”. The International Committee of the Red Cross said “It is essential that we protect the lives of people in armed conflict. The human toll that we witness in Yemen is unacceptable” Meanwhile, the Yemeni force’s spokesman Yahya Saree issued a warning to Abu Dhabi saying that “after the massacres committed by the Saudi coalition against our people, we advise foreign companies in the UAE to leave. The UAE is an unsafe state as long as its rulers continue their aggression against our country”. This comes as Yemen’s Supreme Political Council condemns the “shameful international silence towards the crimes of aggression against the Yemeni people” and warn

continue reading