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US delegation to meet Taliban in first high-level talks: officials




The high-level US delegation will include officials from the State Department, USAID and the US intelligence community, and will press the Taliban to ensure continued safe passage for US citizens and others out of Afghanistan, the officials say.

A US delegation will meet with senior Taliban representatives in Doha on Saturday and Sunday in their first face-to-face meeting at a senior level since Washington pulled its troops from Afghanistan and the group took over the country, two senior administration officials have told Reuters.

The high-level US delegation will include officials from the State Department, USAID and the US intelligence community, will press the Taliban to ensure continued safe passage for US citizens and others out of Afghanistan and to release kidnapped US citizen Mark Frerichs, the officials said.

Another top priority will be to hold the Taliban to its commitment that it will not allow Afghanistan to again become a hotbed for Al Qaeda or other militants while pressing the group to improve access for humanitarian aid as the country faces the prospect of a “really severe and probably impossible to prevent” economic contraction, US officials said.

READ MORE: Taliban warns against isolating Afghanistan, ready for talks

‘Any legitimacy must be earned through the Taliban’s own actions’

US Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad, who has for years spearheaded US dialogue with the Taliban and been a key figure in peace talks with the group, will not be part of the delegation.

The US team will include the State Department’s Deputy Special Representative Tom West as well as top USAID humanitarian official Sarah Charles. On The Taliban side, cabinet officials will be attending, officials said.

“This meeting is a continuation of the pragmatic engagements with the Taliban that we’ve had ongoing on matters of vital national interest,” said a senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

“This meeting is not about granting recognition or conferring legitimacy. We remain clear that any legitimacy must be earned through the Taliban’s own actions. They need to establish a sustained track record,” the official said.

US-allied Afghans at risk

The United States’ two decades-long occupation of Afghanistan culminated in a hastily organised airlift in August which saw more than 124,000 civilians including Americans, Afghans and others being evacuated as the Taliban took over. But thousands of other US-allied Afghans at risk of Taliban persecution were left behind.

Washington and other Western countries are grappling with difficult choices as a severe humanitarian crisis looms large over Afghanistan. They are trying to formulate how to engage with the Taliban without granting it the legitimacy it seeks while ensuring humanitarian aid flows into the country.

Many Afghans have started selling their possessions to pay for ever-scarcer food.

The departure of US-led forces and many international donors robbed the country of grants that financed 75% of public spending, according to the World Bank.

While there was an improvement for humanitarian actors get access to some areas that they haven’t been in a decade, problems still persisted, the US official said, adding that the US delegation would press Taliban to improve.

“Right now, we are facing some real access issues….There are a lot of challenges in ensuring that female aid workers are provided unimpeded access to all areas,” the official said and added that Washington needed to see an improvement by the Taliban on this front “if we are to contemplate even more robust humanitarian assistance.”

READ MORE: UN agency warns Afghanistan at risk of ‘imminent’ famine

Pressure on women’s rights

While the Taliban has promised to be more inclusive than when it led the country from 1996 to 2001, the United States has repeatedly said it will judge the new Taliban government based on its deeds not its words.

The Taliban drew from its inner high echelons to fill top posts in Afghanistan’s new provisional government announced last month, including an associate of the group’s founder as premier and a wanted man on a US terrorism list as interior minister. There were no outsiders and no women in the cabinet.

The European Union foreign policy chief said on Sunday its behaviour up to now was “not very encouraging.”

“We will certainly press the Taliban to respect the rights of all Afghans including women and girls and to form an inclusive government with broad support,” the US official said.

READ MORE: Taliban-run Kabul municipality orders female workers to stay home

He added that there were discrepancies between the Taliban’s promises of continued safe passage and implementation.

“As a practical matter, their implementation of their commitments have been uneven. It is true that sometimes we receive assurances from certain levels but then follow through on those assurances has truly been uneven,” the official said.

The United States has directly facilitated the departure of 105 US citizens and 95 lawful permanent residents out of Afghanistan since August 31, when US withdrawal was completed, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Thursday.

He declined to provide a precise figure for those remaining, but said the agency was in contact with “dozens of Americans in Afghanistan who wish to leave” but that the number was dynamic and constantly changing.

READ MORE: Moscow invites Taliban to Afghanistan talks

Source: Reuters (


Bassam named prime suspect in FAM corruption





Prosecutor General Hussain Shameem confirmed on Thursday that Bassan Adeel Jaleel, the president of the Football Association of Maldives (FAM), is the prime suspect in the corruption investigation launched against the association.

In a press briefing on Thursday afternoon, Shameem said that the investigation was launched at the instructions of the Prosecutor General’s Office, and that evidence in the case has been collected from both the police and the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA).

“We hope to collect enough evidence to file formal charges with the court within the next two weeks,” he said, adding that the investigators were conducting a swift investigation.

Shameem said FAM’s top officials are suspected of misappropriating the funds it received from the international governing body of association football, FIFA.

“As you know, the funds FIFA sends to FAM aren’t for FAM, its for Maldivian citizens. They are entrusted with funds to the people. In this case, this was done in violation of Maldives’ laws and regulations,” he said.

“We have seen a huge amount of the money circulated in different ways.”

Shameem said investigators are able to collect key evidence in such financial crime investigations, committed through bank cards. He said that the suspects had used their bank cards for payments during trips, making the hotels and the shopping malls they visited known.

He said that the authorities need some additional evidence before they can file formal charges.

“The thing is, certain documents weren’t stored in a manner that normal human beings do it. So, there are certain challenges to finding and reviewing it,” he said.

Shameem said they expect to find the evidence in the coming days.

The police had raided the FAM House at PGO’s instructions on October 23, during which investigators were seen seizing dozens of box files.

Bassam previously stated he would make a comment once the police finish their investigation.


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China releases paper on its position on Palestinian-Israeli conflict





BEIJING – The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday released a paper stating China’s position on resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The following is the full text:

Position Paper of the People’s Republic of China on Resolving the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict

current Palestinian-Israeli conflict has caused heavy civilian casualties and a serious humanitarian disaster. It is a grave concern of the international community. President Xi Jinping stated China’s principled position on the current Palestinian-Israeli situation on a number of occasions. He stressed the need for an immediate ceasefire and ending the fighting, ensuring that the humanitarian corridors are safe and unimpeded, and preventing the expansion of the conflict. He pointed out that the fundamental way out of this lies in the two-state solution, building international consensus for peace, and working toward a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the Palestinian question at an early date.

Pursuant to the Charter of the United Nations, the Security Council shoulders primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, and should thus play an active and constructive role on the question of Palestine. In this connection, China offers the following proposals:

1. Implementing a comprehensive ceasefire and ending the fighting. Parties to the conflict should truly implement the relevant UNGA and UNSC resolutions and immediately realize a durable and sustained humanitarian truce. Building on UNSC Resolution 2712, the Security Council, in response to the calls of the international community, should explicitly demand a comprehensive ceasefire and end of the fighting, work for deescalation of the conflict, and cool down the situation as soon as possible.

2. Protecting civilians effectively. The UNSC resolution demands in explicit terms that all parties comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law, notably with regard to the protection of civilians. It is imperative to stop any violent attacks against civilians and violations of international humanitarian law, and avoid attacks on civilian facilities. The Security Council should further send a clear message on opposing forced transfer of the Palestinian civilian population, preventing the displacement of Palestinian civilians, and calling for the release of all civilians and hostages held captive as soon as possible.

3. Ensuring humanitarian assistance. All relevant parties must, as per requirements of the UNSC resolution, refrain from depriving the civilian population in Gaza of supplies and services indispensable to their survival, set up humanitarian corridors in Gaza to enable rapid, safe, unhindered and sustainable humanitarian access, and avoid a humanitarian disaster of even greater gravity. The Security Council should encourage the international community to ramp up humanitarian assistance, improve the humanitarian situation on the ground, and support the coordinating role of the United Nations as well as the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in humanitarian assistance, and prepare the international community for supporting post-conflict reconstruction in Gaza.

4. Enhancing diplomatic mediation. The Security Council should leverage its role in facilitating peace as mandated in the UN Charter to demand that parties to the conflict exercise restraint to prevent the conflict from widening and uphold peace and stability in the Middle East. The Security Council should value the role of regional countries and organizations, support the good offices of the UN Secretary General and the Secretariat, and encourage countries with influence on parties to the conflict to uphold an objective and just position so as to jointly play a constructive role in deescalating the crisis.

5. Seeking political settlement. According to relevant UNSC resolutions and international consensus, the fundamental settlement of the question of Palestine lies in the implementation of the two-state solution, restoration of the legitimate national rights of Palestine, and the establishment of an independent State of Palestine that enjoys full sovereignty based on the 1967 border and with east Jerusalem as its capital. The Security Council should help restore the two-state solution. A more broad-based, authoritative and effective international peace conference led and organized by the UN should be held as soon as possible to formulate a concrete timetable and roadmap for the implementation of the two-state solution and facilitate a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the question of Palestine. Any arrangement on the future of Gaza must respect the will and independent choice of the Palestinian people, and must not be imposed upon them.

Source(s): Policies, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China

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PG: Enough evidence for over 200 charges against Manday





Prosecutor General Hussain Shameem says investigators have collected enough evidence to press Hassan Mamdhooh (Manday) – who is accused of fraud in the sale of apartments from K-Park Residences – a condominium under development in Hulhumale’ – with over 200 charges.

The fraudulent sale of the apartments was submitted for police investigation by both Hanbo – the project’s developer – and Urbanco.

Manday, the former minority shareholder at Hanbo, was arrested by the police, but was later granted conditional release by the court.

In a press briefing on Thursday afternoon, Shameem said the case that Manday, along with other suspects in the case, are accused of doctoring documents by forging the signature of Hanbo’s majority shareholders, and opening an account in the company’s name with the Bank of Maldives (BML) in order to commit acts of fraud and scam.

Shameem that the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) expects to file charges against Manday, and a second unnamed suspect in the case, earlier next week.

He said that Manday will be separately charged for each act of fraud, and the charges against him are expected to exceed 200.

He added that the authorities are running multiple parallel investigations in the case, and the number of charges is therefore expected to increase.

Photos of items seized from Hassan Mamdhooh (Manday)’s penthouse apartment. (Photo/Courtesy of Prosecutor General’s Office)

“He must be punished separately for each charge. Otherwise, you are just encouraging people to commit more crimes. If there’s no differentiation for people who commit more crimes, then you are just telling a thief to steal more. This is not how the law is meant to be interpreted. So, we will be filing separate charges for each incident, each offense,” he said.

The charges Manday faces includes charges of submitting forged documents, fraud, and money laundering.

“41 apartments were sold to 107 different people,” said Shameem. “We have gotten a clear picture of this in the course of our investigation.”

Photos of items seized from Hassan Mamdhooh (Manday)’s penthouse apartment. (Photo/Courtesy of Prosecutor General’s Office)


Shameem said the police seized a penthouse apartment developed by FW Construction in connection to the case.

The police suspect the apartment, valued at MVR 7.8 million, was bought from selling two apartments from K-Park Residences to four different buyers.

Photos of items seized from Hassan Mamdhooh (Manday)’s penthouse apartment. (Photo/Courtesy of Prosecutor General’s Office)

During the raid of the penthouse, the police found items worth around MVR 7 million, including 200 unopened perfume bottles, luxury bags, and jewelry.

“Bags worth around MVR 90,000. Handbags worth between MVR 40,000-MVR 50,000. Different types of jewelry worth USD 10,000-USD 25,000. The total value of these goods amount to MVR 7 million,” he said.

Hanbo, which launched the K-Park project in 2016, was co-owned by Jin Shihu, a Chinese national, and Manday. Shihu owned 95 percent of the shares while Manday owned the remaining five percent.

Manday previously denied the allegations against him.


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