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No NSA talks on basis of India’s conditions: Pakistan

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

Islamabad: Pakistan, in a statement made on Saturday, decided to call off the NSA talks with India saying it has “come to the conclusion that the NSA talks would not serve any purpose if conducted on the basis of the conditions” put forth by India.

Sushma_Swaraj_at_an_Indian_Diaspora_event_in_London,_UKPutting a stop to the uncertainty over the talks, scheduled to be held between the National Security Advisors of India, Ajit Doval, and Pakistan, Sartaj Aziz, on August 23-24, the Pakistan Foreign Office said in a statement that talks held on the two conditions laid down by India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj would not serve any purpose. It accused Swaraj of “restricting the agenda” of the talks to only two items: creating an atmosphere free from terrorism and tranquility on the Line of Control.

Pakistan said that terrorism was always simultaneously discussed with other issues according to their composite dialogues. “It is not reasonable for India to now assume the right to decide unilaterally that from now onward, other issues will be discussed after terrorism has been discussed and eliminated.”

Swaraj had said that Pakistani NSA Sartaj Aziz was welcome to come for the August 23-24 parley, but he has to stick to the Ufa agenda to discuss only terrorism and the Kashmiri separatists have no place in the dialogue.

The Pakistan Foreign Office said that if the only purpose of the NSA talks was to discuss terrorism, “then instead of improving the prospects of peace it will only intensify the blame game and further vitiate the atmosphere”.

It said it had proposed that besides discussing terrorism, the modalities and possible time schedule for other outstanding issues like Kashmir, Siachen and Sir Creek, also be discussed “in keeping with the Ufa statement”.

With inputs from IANS

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Thousands Displaced as SDF Targeting Civilians Advances on Last IS Territory in Syria

Bali said the second obstacle for the SDF forces is that IS has a number of hostages who had been arrested and detained by the militants.

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Syria
A U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighter stands atop a hill in the desert outside the village of Baghuz, Syria, Feb. 14, 2019. VOA

Islamic State (IS) fighters are targeting civilians who are trying to flee the last territory held by the terror group in eastern Syria, U.S.-backed forces told VOA on Thursday.

Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a U.S.-backed Kurdish-led alliance, said that IS militants hit a road used by civilians to escape violence as the battle to free the town of Baghuz in Syria’s Deir el-Zour province enters its sixth day.

“IS has blocked that road to prevent civilians from coming to the SDF,” SDF fighter Ali Ahmed said. “They have targeted civilians there, but we have responded to their attacks against civilians.”

Ahmed said that some families of IS fighters are among the fleeing civilians.

Located near the Iraqi border, Baghuz is the last stronghold held by IS extremists in Syria. With the help of the U.S.-led coalition, SDF fighters have pushed out IS from all territories it once held since 2014.

Fierce fighting between IS militants and the U.S.-backed fighters continues as the latter try to gain ground on Baghuz on several fronts.

“We have two main obstacles as we advance on Baghuz,” Mustafa Bali, an SDF spokesperson, told VOA. “The first one is that [IS] terrorists are holding on to a number of civilians to use them as a bargain chip for their exit.”

Bali said the second obstacle for the SDF forces is that IS has a number of hostages who had been arrested and detained by the militants.

IS controls about 5 square kilometers of territory inside the Syrian town, local military officials said.

“It seems that even the Americans are trying to rescue those civilians and hostages from IS,” Hasib said in a phone interview. VOA

Ivan Hasib, a Syrian reporter covering the battle, told VOA that he witnessed an unusual movement by U.S. military vehicles in the area.

“It seems that even the Americans are trying to rescue those civilians and hostages from IS,” Hasib said in a phone interview.

He said the remaining IS fighters in Baghuz are hoping to exchange hostages for a safe exit into the Iraqi desert.

Also Read: Islamic State Using Women, Children as Human Shields to Postpone Defeat

“There must be some sort of negotiations between IS and SDF about the hostages, because even [U.S.-led] coalition airstrikes have stopped since Tuesday night,” Hasib said, adding that SDF fighters were forced to pause their military operations on the northeastern front in Baghuz.

“We can’t start marching toward it from this side because of civilians. Many civilians are using this road to this side. So we’re here to protect them,” Mezlum Kobani, an SDF commander, told VOA.

According to SDF officials, more than 5,000 civilians have been rescued from IS in Baghuz. (VOA)