Trump calls for Afghan peace talks but with ceasefire rider

Robie de Guzman   •   November 22, 2019   •   309

US President Donald Trump

Kabul, Afghanistan – The United States president has telephoned his Afghanistan counterpart to thank him for his efforts in facilitating the release of two foreign hostage professors, and insisted on ceasefire as a precondition to begin any peace talks with the Taliban, an official said on Friday.

According to the Afghan president’s office, Donald Trump called Ashraf Ghani on Thursday evening.

“(President) Trump thanked (President) Ghani for his efforts and support in ensuring the release of the two American University professors from the Taliban’s captivity,” tweeted Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesperson for the Afghan president.

Australian Timothy Weeks and his American colleague Kevin King, who in 2016 were abducted outside the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul where they worked, were released by the Taliban Tuesday in exchange for Kabul releasing three senior militants.

The prisoners released by the Afghan government, who have since arrived in Qatar, were Anas Haqqani, son of Jalaluddin Haqqani, the founder of the Taliban-linked Haqqani network that has claimed several deadly attacks in Afghanistan in recent years, as well as Hajji Mali Khan and Abdul Rashid.

Trump and Ghani also spoke about the Afghanistan government’s seven-point peace plan for ending the 18-year-long war in the country.

“The two leaders had a detailed discussion about the peace process and the important progress the Afghan security forces have made in the battlefield,” Sediqqi said.

“In response, President Trump insisted on a ceasefire as a precondition before negotiations.”

Sediqqi said Trump stressed on the need to include the Afghan government in peace talks, insisting that “their ownership and leadership of the process from the outset is imperative, which must begin immediately”.

Citing escalating violence and deadly attacks by the Taliban, Trump canceled talks with the Taliban in mid-September after US peace negotiators had held several rounds of parleys with Taliban leaders in Qatar and the UAE.

Sediqqi said Trump invited the Afghan president for an official visit to the US, which Ghani accepted. EFE-EPA

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Pompeo says closed Chinese consulate in Houston was ‘den of spies’

UNTV News   •   July 31, 2020

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday (July 30) the “tide is turning” in U.S. dealings with China, saying there is international support for American policies, including the step-up of maritime maneuvers in the South China Sea.

Reflecting rising tensions between Washington and Beijing, Pompeo took a tough line on China in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“We see the Chinese Communist Party for what it is: the center threat of our times,” Pompeo said.

In recent days, Washington and Beijing have each closed one of the other country’s consulates – the United States closing China’s office in Houston and China retaliating by shuttering the U.S. facility in Chengdu – and Pompeo recently announced an end to Hong Kong’s special trading status.

“We closed the consulate in Houston because it was a den of spies,” Pompeo said.

Pompeo was testifying publicly at Foreign Relations Committee hearing for the first time in 15 months, discussing the State Department’s annual budget request.

President Donald Trump’s administration has tried to slash the State Department budget since it took office, which has been rejected by Congress every year. Democratic lawmakers told the hearing that they would not support steep cuts this year either. (Reuters)

(Production: Kia Johnson)

China informs US to close consulate general in Chengdu

UNTV News   •   July 24, 2020

Chinese Foreign Ministry on Friday informed the U.S. Embassy in China of its decision to withdraw its consent for the establishment and operation of the U.S. Consulate General in Chengdu.

The ministry also made specific requirements on the ceasing of all operations and events by the Consulate General, said a statement issued by the ministry.

On July 21, the United States launched a unilateral provocation by abruptly demanding that China close its Consulate General in Houston, the statement said.

The U.S. move seriously breached international law, the basic norms of international relations, and the terms of the China-U.S. Consular Convention. It gravely harmed China-U.S. relations, said the statement.

The measure taken by China is a legitimate and necessary response to the unjustified act by the United States. It conforms with international law, the basic norms of international relations, and customary diplomatic practices, said the statement.

The statement said the current situation in China-U.S. relations is not what China desires to see, and the United States is responsible for all this.

“We once again urge the United States to immediately retract its wrong decision and create necessary conditions for bringing the bilateral relationship back on track,” the statement added. (Reuters)

Trump says closing more Chinese consulates in US ‘always possible’

UNTV News   •   July 23, 2020

President Donald Trump said on Wednesday (July 22) it was “always possible” he would order the closure of more Chinese consulates in the United States in the wake of the State Department’s order to close Beijing’s consulate in Houston.

Trump, at a White House news conference, noted that a fire was spotted on the Houston consulate’s grounds after the State Department ordered the closure in 72 hours, marking a dramatic deterioration in relations between the world’s two biggest economies.

The U.S. State Department said earlier on Wednesday the Chinese mission in Houston was being closed “to protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information.”

Overnight in Houston, firefighters went to the consulate after smoke was seen. Two U.S. government officials said they had information that documents were being burned there.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said the consulate was operating normally.

The ministry said Washington had abruptly issued the demand to close the consulate on Tuesday and called it an “unprecedented escalation.” (Reuters)

(Production: Njuwa Maina)

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