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Shun militancy if you want dialogue: Sushma to Pakistan

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Sushma Swaraj
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NewsGram Staff Writer

United Nations: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj stated on Thursday that Indo-Pak dialogues would only happen if Pakistan shuns the path of militancy.

Responding to Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s four-point peace initiative, Swaraj said, “we do not need four points, we need just one – give up terrorism and let us sit down and talk.”

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Addressing the General Assembly in Hindi, Swaraj said the international community should make countries aiding, arming and protecting terrorists pay a heavy price.

Speaking of “the challenges that we face in our ties with Pakistan,” Swaraj referred to the terrorism threat from it and the impunity it grants terrorists like the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

“None of us can accept that terrorism is a legitimate instrument of statecraft” she said. “The world shared our outrage at the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks in which citizens of many nations were helplessly butchered. That the mastermind behind the attack is walking free is an affront to the entire international community”, she regretted.

“Not only have past assurances in this regard not been honoured but new cross-border terrorist attacks have taken place recently, in which two terrorists from across the border have also been captured alive,” she added.

“We all know that these attacks are meant to destabilize India and legitimize Pakistan’s illegal occupation of parts of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir and its claim on the rest of it.”

The world should have a zero tolerance for terrorism, Swaraj said, adding, “the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism can no longer be held up. Nor can we be held hostage by seeking to define terrorism when the General Assembly in 2006 adopted the Global Counter Terrorism Strategy unanimously.”

“Member states must undertake their obligations to investigate and prosecute those who are alleged to have supported terrorism,” she said.

Giving up terrorism “was precisely what was discussed and decided by the two prime ministers at Ufa this July,” Swaraj said. “Let us hold talks at the level of NSAs (National Security Advisers) on all issues connected to terrorism and an early meeting of our Directors General of Military Operations to address the situation on the border.”

(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)