The Chief Executive of the Unity Government Abdullah Abdullah said that the nation had welcomed the decision by the Taliban group leadership for a ceasefire during the Eid-al-Fitr.
Abdullah reacted at Taliban’s ceasefire announcement as he was speaking during the Council of Ministers meeting in Kabul yesterday.
Welcoming the Taliban announcement regarding the ceasefire, Abdullah said the Afghan people welcome the positive response by the Taliban group.
This comes as President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani had earlier said “We welcome the three days ceasefire announced by the Taliban starting on the first day of Eid. This comes following the bold decision by the Islamic republic of Afghanistan to cease the fight for a period of time,” President Ghani said in a statement.
He also thanked the international partners of Afghanistan, including US, UK, EU and the Islamic Conference and the Afghan people for the support regarding the decision for ceasefire.
The Taliban group announced earlier on Saturday that the leadership of the group had decided to declared ceasefire during the three days of Eid-al-Fitr. According to their statement, during these three days no attack will be carried out on Afghan forces.
Earlier on Thursday last week, President Ghani announced a ceasefire with the Taliban group and said the Afghan forces would not conduct offensive operations against the group from 27th of the holy month of Ramadan until the 5th day of Eid.
US President Donald Trump said on Monday his historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore could “work out very nicely” as officials from both countries met to narrow differences on how to end a nuclear stand-off on the Korean peninsula.
Kim and Trump arrived in the tropical city-state on Sunday for the first ever face-to-face meeting by leaders of two countries that have been enemies since the 1950-1953 Korean War.
With gaps remaining over what denuclearization would entail, officials from both sides held two hours of talks to push the agenda forward ahead of Tuesday’s summit.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement that the meetings were “substantive and detailed” but there was no immediate word on what the outcome was.
Trump sounded a positive note in a lunch meeting with Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
“We’ve got a very interesting meeting in particular tomorrow, and I just think it’s going to work out very nicely,” Trump said.
He also told Lee: “We appreciate your hospitality and professionalism and friendship...You’re my friend.”
Lobster bisque, beef tenderloin and ice cream were on the lunch menu, and there was also an early birthday cake for Trump, who turns 72 on Thursday.
Kim remained ensconced in the heavily guarded St. Regis Hotel where he is staying. There was also no sign of his sister, Kim Yo Jong, who has accompanied him to Singapore.
Some people were grumbling in the wealthy city-state because of the traffic jams caused by the summit and the cost of hosting two leaders with massive security needs. Lee has said the summit would cost Singapore about 20 million Singapore dollars ($15 million), more than half of which would go on security.
“Thanks PM Lee for spending $20 million of taxpayers money, which can ... help a lot of needy families in Singapore to survive,” posted one Facebook user. Others complained about the jams in downtown Singapore.
Lee said the cost was worthwhile.
“It is our contribution to an international endeavor which is in our profound interest,” he told reporters on Sunday.
Trump and Kim are staying in separate hotels in the famous Orchard Road area of Singapore, dotted with high-rise luxury apartment blocks, offices and glittering shopping malls. Traffic was held up in the steamy midday sun and scores of bystanders were penned in by police when Trump went to meet Lee.
Similar scenes were seen on Sunday when Kim and Trump arrived in the city, and when Kim went to meet Lee. Entry to their hotels is extremely restricted.
Commenting for the first time on the summit, North Korea’s state-run KCNA news agency earlier said the two sides would exchange “wide-ranging and profound views” to re-set relations. It heralded the summit as part of a “changed era”.
Discussions would focus on “the issue of building a permanent and durable peace-keeping mechanism on the Korean peninsula, the issue of realizing the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and other issues of mutual concern,” KCNA said.
In the lead up to the summit, North Korea rejected any unilateral nuclear disarmament, and KCNA’s reference to denuclearization of the peninsula has historically meant that Pyongyang wants the United States to remove its “nuclear umbrella” protecting South Korea and Japan.
Pompeo said in an earlier tweet that Washington was “committed to the complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization of the Korean peninsula”.
Many experts on North Korea, one of the most insular and unpredictable countries in the world, remain skeptical Kim will ever completely abandon nuclear weapons. They believe Kim’s latest engagement is aimed at getting the United States to ease the crippling sanctions that have squeezed the impoverished country.
A Trump administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the US side was entering the talks with a sense of optimism and an equal dose of skepticism given North Korea’s long history of developing nuclear weapons.
“We will not be surprised by any scenario,” said the official.
The official said Trump and Kim would hold a one-on-one meeting on Tuesday that could last up to two hours. He described it as a “get to know you plus” meeting.
Later, a meeting including officials could last another hour.
The summit’s venue is the Capella hotel on Sentosa, a resort island off Singapore’s port with luxury hotels, a Universal Studios theme park and man-made beaches.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has denied that Syria's main military ally, Russia, is making decisions for him, saying it was natural to have differences of opinion between allies.
In an interview with British newspaper The Mail, carried in full by Syrian state news agency SANA on Sunday, Assad commented on claims about Moscow's control over Syria's diplomatic and military moves.
"They (the Russians) never, during our relation, try to dictate, even if there are differences," he said, according to SANA's transcript of the interview, given in English.
Assad stated that "it is natural to have differences between the different parties, whether within our government or other governments; Russia-Syria, Syria-Iran, Iran-Russia, and within these governments.
"That's very natural, but at the end, the only decision about what's going on in Syria and what's going to happen, it's a Syrian decision," he said.
Reuters news agency reported on Tuesday that a Russian troop deployment in Syria near the Lebanese border had caused friction with Iran-backed forces, in what appeared to be a rare case of Russia acting inversely with Assad's Iran-backed allies.
In the interview, Assad said he expects the war in his country to be over in "less than a year". He also reiterated his aim to take back "every inch" of Syria.
According to him, the involvement of foreign powers such as Britain, the US and France has been prolonging the conflict.
He also claimed that such interventions had slowed down a resolution to the situation in rebel-held areas of southwestern Syria.
"We were about to achieve reconciliation in the southern part of Syria only two weeks ago, but the West interfered and asked the terrorists not to follow this path in order to prolong the Syrian conflict," Assad said.
Three Gulf Arab states pledged $2.5bn in aid to Jordan in an effort to stabilize the kingdom as it faces its worst protests in years over government austerity plans that include tax increases and price hikes.
The aid, pledged by Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, will go towards a deposit in Jordan's Central Bank, cover World Bank loan guarantees for the kingdom, direct budget support in the form cash deposits and finance other development projects.
The economic aid package is critical to ease Jordan's current budget deficit, which amounts to about $700m.
The hope is the five-year aid package, which mirrors a similar aid package offered by Gulf states in 2011, will help Jordan come up with a new, more-palatable austerity plan to satisfy international lenders and its public.
The decision came after an early morning meeting in Mecca attended by Jordan's King Abdullah II, Saudi King Salman, Kuwait's ruling Emir, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, and Dubai's ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the UAE's vice president and prime minister.
Official Saudi press agency statement quoted King Abdullah II as saying he hoped the aid would help his country overcome its fiscal crisis.
The government of Jordan's Prime Minister Hani al-Mulki resigned after protesters blamed it for Jordan's economic mismanagement.
King Abdallah II then asked education minister in the outgoing government, Omar al Razzaz to form the new government.
Razzaz later pledged to scrap the law and engage in dialogue to reach a new consensus on a new tax and economic reform.
The pledge from the GCC was to last five years. It expired last year and so far the six-member GCC has yet to offer any additional funding as the bloc remains split by a diplomatic crisis with Qatar.
Jordan receives over $1bn a year from the US, as well as aid from Europe and elsewhere.
Italy is refusing to let a humanitarian ship carrying more than 600 refugees and migrants to dock at its ports, but has instead asked Malta take them in.
Malta brushed off the request, saying it had nothing to do with the rescue operation, opening the prospect of a diplomatic rift between the two European Union allies.
The move by Italy’s new interior minister, Matteo Salvini, who is also head of the anti-immigrant League, represents an opening gambit to make good on his electoral promises to halt the flow of migrants into the country.
“Malta takes in nobody. France pushes people back at the border, Spain defends its frontier with weapons,” Salvini wrote on Facebook. “From today, Italy will also start to say no to human trafficking, no to the business of illegal immigration.”
More than 600,000 migrants have reached Italy by boat from Africa in the past five years. Numbers have dropped dramatically in recent months, but rescues have increased in recent days, presenting Salvini with his first test as minister.
“My aim is to guarantee a peaceful life for these youths in Africa and for our children in Italy,” Mr Salvini said, using the Twitter hashtag “We are shutting the ports”.
However, Salvini does not have authority over the ports and it was not immediately clear if his line would hold. The mayor of Naples, who has repeatedly clashed with the League leader, said he would welcome in the humanitarian boat.
“Naples is ready, without funds, to save lives,” he said.
European charity SOS Mediterranee said on Twitter earlier on Sunday that its rescue boat Aquarius had taken on board 629 migrants, including 123 unaccompanied minors, 11 other children and seven pregnant women.
The charity said the group of mainly sub-Saharan Africans were picked up in six different rescue operations off the coast of Libya and included hundreds who were plucked from the sea by Italian naval units and then transferred to the Aquarius.
“The boat is now heading north towards a secure port,” SOS Mediterranee tweeted on Sunday without specifying its destination, although virtually every such migrant boat over the past five years has ended up in Italy.
Its route north will take it past Malta, and the Italian government said its port authorities had written to the small island state asking it to let the Aquarius dock there.
“The island cannot continue looking the other way when it comes to respecting international conventions,” said the statement, which was signed by Mr Salvini and Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli, who is nominally in charge of the ports.
Malta said the rescue operations took place in international waters off Libya and were coordinated by Italy.
“Malta is neither the competent nor the coordinating authority in this case. Malta will observe prevailing laws,” its government said in a brief statement.
SOS Mediterranee spokesperson Mathilde Auvillain said the Aquarius had received orders to head north after a series of sea rescues and was now was awaiting “definitive instructions”.
“Our objective is the disembarkation in a port of safety of the 629 people now on board the Aquarius – some we rescued yesterday night in difficult conditions,” she said.
Charity boats operating off the Libyan coast have played an increasingly important role in rescuing migrants who often put to sea in flimsy inflatable boats not designed for the open sea.
The United Nations estimates that at least 500 people have died in 2018 trying to cross the central Mediterranean, following some 2,853 fatalities last year.
Mr Salvini has accused the charities of acting as a “taxi service” for the migrants. On Friday, he called on Nato to help Italy defend its southern shores.
European Union (EU) officials have said that Afghanistan’s export climate over recent years has not been encouraging and that the trade deficit is one of the worst in the world.
They said the Afghan government has not been able to use the incentives provided by the EU to substantially increase exports to European countries.
Speaking at an event in Kabul on Sunday, where a new export strategy was released, Arancha Gonzalez, Executive Director of the International Trade Center (ITC), said prosperity and peace would come from trade.
“The national export strategy is called peace through prosperity, prosperity through trade, and this is precisely what we all in this room want to do, to use trade to generate growth and to generate jobs; this is what the young population is demanding from all of us in the room. Doing that contributes to peace and stability that is the logic behind this document,” Gonzalez said in reference to the strategy.
Also speaking at the event was ambassador Pierre Mayaudon, the European Union Head of Delegation to Afghanistan, who said the trade deficit in Afghanistan was one of the worst in the world.
“It is alarming even so minister (of trade and industry) you have reflected some progress in the volume of exports, but nevertheless this ratio of ten to one we have seen the corresponding trade deficit to be one of the worst in the world in-fact and it’s about time to replace the trading model which is driven by imports.”
But Afghan officials said the national export strategy will have a significant impact on reducing the trade balance deficit over the next five years.
Based on the strategy, Afghanistan’s exports will increase significantly in this time, with the cooperation of the European Union and International Trade Centre (ITC).
Meanwhile CEO Abdullah Abdullah said in turn that the implementation of the strategy was a key element to reducing the trade balance deficit.
“We are absolutely confident about the results which will be obtained from the implementation of this strategy, we hope that the problems in this field are resolved,” said Abdullah.
He also stressed the need for more facilities to be provided to the export sector.
“Compared to recent years, our export volume has increased from $600 million per annum to $700 million and this indicates a better situation,” said Humayoun Rasa, the minister of commerce and industries.
Meanwhile officials from the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI) said that in some cases, the decisions made by the leaders of the National Unity Government (NUG) are not adhered to by ministries and other government institutions.
The national export strategy aims to take solid steps towards Afghanistan’s sustainable economic development and to boost government revenues and increase exports. The strategy will be implemented over the next five years.
Regional consensus is essential for the settlement of Afghan conflict. It is widely believed that it is certainly difficult, if not impossible, to bring peace to Afghanistan without the cooperation of regional states. The events after the ouster of the Taliban regime proved that coordination among regional and global powers is imperative for stability in Afghanistan. When the US-led Western coalition deployed troops in Afghanistan, all regional nations welcomed the decision hoping that it will neutralize the threat of terrorism originating from Afghanistan. That led to a relative stability in the country for the first few years. Later on, Pakistan resorted to playing a destructive role. Now in addition to Pakistan, other regional states have also become suspicious of American goals in Afghanistan, and they publicly declare their stance on the issue. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is a good platform to forge a regional consensus on Afghanistan. The influence of the powerful member states of SCO over Afghanistan cannot be ignored. India and Pakistan were also granted full membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in its this year summit. The move will further increase the significance of SCO in building a regional consensus on Afghanistan because Delhi and Islamabad are the key players in Afghan imbroglio.
Besides making efforts to get full membership of SCO, Afghanistan should also fully deploy the potential of the organization in forging the consensus. All member states of the SCO, except Pakistan, view stability in Afghanistan in their interests. The continuation of instability in the region can threaten the economic interests of the SCO’s leading members, China and Russia; therefore, they are expected to do more to bring stability to Afghanistan. Moreover, Moscow and Beijing are expected to stop Islamabad from playing a destructive role in Afghanistan given their influence over Pakistan. The stronger the Afghanistan-SCO ties, the better the opportunities for forging regional consensus. So keeping this importance in mind, Afghan government should establish a strong, professional team within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for building ties with SCO and implementing its decisions. This will accelerate the process of Afghanistan’s full membership in the SCO on the one hand, and encourage its member states to come around to a unanimous stance on Afghanistan on the other hand.
Fifteen security personnel have been killed in a Taliban attack in the Qala-i-Zal district of northern Kunduz province, officials said on Monday.
District chief Safdar Haidar told Pajhwok Afghan News the militants launched a coordinated attack on a security check-post in the Aqtepa area of the district late on Sunday night.
He said five Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers and 10 policemen were killed in the assault.
Aminullah Aideen, a member of the provincial council, confirmed the attack and casualties. He said the militants also took away two tanks of the security forces.
Allah Berdi, a resident of the area, said gunfire was heard all night long. He claimed 18 security personnel manning the check-post were killed.
At least 12 people were killed and 31 wounded when a suicide attacker blew himself up outside the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development building in Kabul on Monday, officials said, as employees were leaving their offices early for Ramadan.
Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing, the group’s AMAQ news agency says.
Health ministry spokesman Waheed Majroh said at least 12 people were killed and 31 wounded in the explosion that happened at the main gate of the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development.
Employees were gathered at the entrance of the compound waiting for a bus to take them home when the suicide bomber blew himself up among the crowd, said the ministry spokesman Faridoon Azhand, who was inside the building at the time.
“Unfortunately we have lost some colleagues,” Azhand told AFP.
Police spokesman Hashmat Stanikzai confirmed at least 12 people had been killed, including women, and another 20 wounded.
Employees were leaving their offices at 1:00 pm due to the holy month of Ramadan, when most Muslims fast from dawn to dust, when the suicide attacker struck.
Employees inside the ministry at the time of the attack confirmed hearing a blast.
“An explosion happened at the exit gate of the ministry,” Daud Naimi, director of the communications department at the ministry, told AFP.
“I was in my office when I heard a big blast,” another employee told AFP.
“Most of my colleagues were leaving for the day to go home. I am worried about my colleagues. We are told to stay inside for now.”
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Thursday announced security forces would halt hostilities with the Taliban for a week.
It would last from the “27th of Ramadan until the fifth day of Eid-al-Fitr”, he said, indicating it could run from June 12-19.
The Taliban said Saturday their fighters would stop attacking Afghan security forces, but only for the first three days of Eid, the holiday capping Ramadan.
It is the first time the militants have agreed to suspend fighting since the 2001 US invasion, and the move was largely welcomed by war-weary Afghans.
Afghan security forces and the Taliban have vowed to retaliate if attacked during the ceasefire.
The militants have also said their ceasefire does not extend to US-led NATO forces, while Kabul said operations against foreign fighters including the Islamic State group will continue.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, speaking at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in China, on Sunday called Afghanistan an unfortunate example of the effects of terrorism.
“I hope the brave steps towards peace taken by President Ghani will be respected by all in the region," Modi was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency.
The Indian leader was referring to the Afghan government's surprise announcement of a week-long ceasefire with the Taliban for Eid.
India would play an important role within the contact group that was operating to help Afghanistan, promised the prime minister, who was welcomed by China's President Xi Jinping.
He claimed his country -- playing an effective role in promoting regional connectivity -- had been part of several projects, including the Chabahar port in Iran. He called for enhancing people-to-people interaction.
In his speech, Modi suggested the SCO summit should have a fixed goal and look to achieving that. He floated the idea of forming a committee that worked to achieve a fixed goal in a time-bound framework.