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Peace Talks with Afghanistan Will Yield ‘Very Positive’ Results: Saudi Arabia

The United States hopes Saudia Arabia and the UAE can push Pakistan to use its leverage on the Taliban to drop their refusal to talk directly with the Afghan government.

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saudi arabia, USA, peace talks
Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States Prince Khalid bin Salman, left, arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 24, 2017. VOA

Afghan peace talks held in the United Arab Emirates will yield “very positive results by the beginning of next year,” the Saudi ambassador to Washington said Thursday, adding to hopes of progress to end the 17-year war in Afghanistan.

Khalid bin Salman added on his Twitter account that the talks were productive and would “help promote intra-Afghan dialog towards ending the conflict.”

The U.S. special envoy for Afghan peace talks, Zalmay Khalilzad arrived in Kabul on Wednesday to meet government leaders following his discussions with Taliban representatives in Abu Dhabi earlier this week.

Officials from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates took part in the Abu Dhabi meeting, at least the third encounter between Khalilzad and Taliban envoys since he was named to oversee the peace effort from Washington’s side in September.

USA, afghanistan, taliban, peace talks
U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, talks with local reporters at the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 18, 2018. VOA

In an interview with Afghanistan’s Ariana Television, Khalilzad repeated that ideally, an agreement would be reached before presidential elections, currently scheduled for April 20.

But he said he had “questions on the Taliban, whether they are genuinely seeking peace.

“It’s desirable to have a peace deal before the elections. But it’s up to the Afghan government and the Taliban,” he said, according to a transcript provided by the U.S. embassy in Kabul.

The United States insists that any peace settlement must be agreed between Afghans but the Taliban have so far publicly refused to talk directly to the Afghan government, which they say is an illegitimate, foreign-imposed regime.

U.S. troops

The urgency around the peace talks was heightened by President Donald Trump’s unexpected decision this week, fulfilling a promise from his 2016 presidential election campaign, to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria.

USA, Afghanistan, Troops, peace talks
U.S. troops listen to a security briefing before leaving their base in Logar province, Afghanistan, Aug. 5, 2018. VOA

According to Western diplomats in Kabul, there is concern among some U.S. allies that Trump may decide a similar move in Afghanistan and Khalilzad is widely believed to have until the middle of next year to come up with a settlement.

The United States hopes Saudia Arabia and the UAE can push Pakistan to use its leverage on the Taliban to drop their refusal to talk directly with the Afghan government.

Khalilzad said that during the meeting, the two countries had proposed a three-month cease-fire between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

Also Read: U.S. and Taliban Conclude Pakistan-Moderated Peace Talks

“The Taliban did not commit on the cease-fire as they said they had to consult their senior leadership,” he said.

“However, we encouraged them (that) in order to reach a quick peace agreement, they should come forward with a rapid positive response to the proposal of the UAE and SKA.” (VOA)

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World Leaders Prepare for G7 Summit Even As Fears Over Global Economy Increases

The economic fears are rooted in the trade war between the United States and China

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G7 Summit
Security concerns will also be high on the agenda. North Korea has resumed its ballistic missile tests. Pixabay

The G-7 host, Emmanuel Macron,  has made fighting inequality the theme for the annual meeting of the seven industrialized nations, which opens Saturday in the French seaside resort of Biarritz with the leaders of the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Italy, Japan and Canada in attendance.

The French president has invited leaders from several other countries, including six African nations, to take part in the annual discussion of major global challenges. But analysts say any grand ambitions for the summit will likely be stymied by pressing economic concerns.

Most worrisome are recent indicators from both sides of the Atlantic of slowing economic growth and a possible global recession.

Earlier this month, government bond yields in both the United States and Germany were briefly higher for two-year than 10-year bonds, a sign that investors see significant risks ahead, says economist Jasper Lawler of the London Capital Group.

“Particularly in the U.S., it’s actually been a very reliable signal to point towards a recession.”

Adding the investors’ fears, the usual fiscal tools to tackle a recession might not be available.

“We don’t have that usual fallback from central banks of cutting interest rates because they already have, and they are already at rock bottom levels,” says Lawler.

G7 Summit
Summit host France is determined to not let economics overshadow its own agenda. Pixabay

The economic fears are rooted in the trade war between the United States and China, which has resulted in both countries imposing tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of imports. Europe is suffering additional headwinds, says economist Lawler.

“The trade war, but also just the auto sector, the transition from using diesel cars to electronic vehicles. It’s a period of uncertainty that’s unduly affecting Europe.”

Summit host France is determined to not let economics overshadow its own agenda — and top of the list is climate change, says John Kirton of the G-7 Research Group at the University of Toronto.

“It’s driven by the scary science which is unfolding every day, but more importantly by the historic heat waves that have afflicted Europe, including France.”

U.S. President Donald Trump left last year’s G-7 summit in Canada early, before the leaders had discussed climate change, and later disavowed the final communiqué. This year France is determined to keep the United States on board, says Kirton.

“President Macron I think has structured his agenda to allow Donald Trump to be at his best. Gender equality — the president has been very good at that, it’s at the top of the French list. Education — yes, and also health. It’s the president of the United States that’s been pushing the G-7 to try to get it to deal with the opioid crisis.”

G7 Summit
U.S. President Donald Trump left last year’s G-7 summit in Canada early, before the leaders had discussed climate change, and later disavowed the final communiqué. Pixabay

Security concerns will also be high on the agenda. North Korea has resumed its ballistic missile tests.

Meanwhile the standoff between Iran and the West has escalated over the seizure of a British-flagged oil tanker in the Persian Gulf, which followed the detention of an Iranian vessel in Gibraltar.

Burgeoning anti-government protests in Russia and Hong Kong also pose questions for the G-7, says Kirton.

Also Read: Purchase Rights for Huawei Extended By US

“Have we seen the tide [change], where authoritarian leaders in various degrees are no longer in control? It may not be the way of the future. In fact, if that’s the case, then how can the G-7 activate its distinctive foundational issue: to promote democracy?” Kirton asked.

Meanwhile British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will meet Trump at the G-7 for the first time in his new role. Both leaders are hoping for a rapid trade deal amid signs of a steep economic downturn in Britain as it edges closer to crashing out of the European Union with no deal at the end of October. (VOA)