THE Afghan Taliban militant group says it is ‘way too early’ to speak of restarting direct negotiations with the United States, a day after US President Donald Trump paid a surprise visit to Afghanistan and said Washington is resuming talks with the militant group.
During his first visit to Afghanistan since he took office, Trump said on Thursday, ‘The Taliban wants to make a deal and we are meeting with them.’
‘We say it has to be a ceasefire and they didn’t want to do a ceasefire and now they want to do a ceasefire, I believe. It will probably work out that way,’ Trump told reporters during his surprise Thanksgiving Day visit to the US troops at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.
But Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Friday that impediments remained in the way of a resumption of the talks.
‘It is way too early to talk about the resumption of talks for now,’ he said, noting that the militant group would give an official reaction to Trump’s remarks later.
Trump ended year long talks with the Taliban in September.
The negotiations were aimed at ending the 18-year war in Afghanistan. He said at the time that the decision to end the talks was his response to a deadly bomb blast by the militants that killed 12 people in the Afghan capital of Kabul on September 5, including an American soldier.
The administration of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had been kept out of those talks. The Taliban have been saying they do not recognise the Kabul government.
Trump’s visit came after the release of two Western hostages by the militants earlier this month as part of a swap deal with the Afghan government.
President Ghani has proposed an initiative of his own to open direct talks between his government and the Taliban.
The US invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 and overthrew the Taliban regime in power at the time. But US forces have remained bogged down there through the presidencies of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and now Donald Trump.
• Meanwhile speaking together with former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar at the University of Francisco de Vitoria, the 64-year-old politician and former French President Nicolas Sarkozy said European civilisation doesn’t want to die and stressed that in a changing world, Europe can’t allow itself to live without development.
Sarkozy said that the crisis of liberal conservative parties is the crisis of the West, noting that people who believe that the issue only has to do with the failure of traditional parties are missing the big question – the decay of the West and Europe.
‘We are no longer the axis of the world and there are demographic reasons for this’, Sarkozy said.
‘The axis of the world has passed the West and today shifted to the East.
‘Of the 7 billion people that inhabit the planet, 4 billion live in Asia’. The former French president made the statement at a conference titled ‘The Future of Europe’, which he attended together with former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar.
Sarkozy blamed divisions in the European Union on aging ideas, saying people need to stop talking about Europe of the last 70 years.
‘How do they see a single Europe with 27 member states?’ Sarkozy asked, addressing the audience at the University of Francisco de Vitoria. ‘I see four Europes – Europe bound by Schengen zone, Europe bound by euro currency, Europe bound by Defence and by the Union – they are different.
‘I believe equality does not exist and is not desirable. I believe we must imagine the future of Europe’, Sarkozy said, adding that politicians should stop looking back to the past and using outdated concepts.
Both Sarkozy and Aznar believe that Brexit is madness and a historical contradiction, noting that the aftermath of the UK’s withdrawal will last much longer than people imagine.
The former French president said secessionism is a poison and is a problem that plagues not only Spain, referring to Catalonia’s push for independence, but all of Europe.
‘I cannot accept the division, neither of Spain, nor of Europe’, Sarkozy said, adding that a lack of democracy favours secessionism.
The fact that the world’s foremost economic and military power elected Donald Trump tells a lot about the society in the United States, Sarkozy said.
‘I like when the United States is strong and leads the way, but I never thought a tweet made anyone strong’, Sarkozy said, adding that Trump is not the cause of the West’s decline, but a symptom.
- Syrian forces mustered dozens of military vehicles near oil fields in the Rumeilan region of Al-Hasakah province in Syria’s northeast, Syrian state television reported on Thursday.
The equipment was transferred from the US positions in the north of Raqqa province and west of Al-Hasakah province, the media said.
Earlier this month it was reported that a US military convoy consisting of 22 military vehicles and two trucks crossed the Syrian-Iraqi border and positioned itself near several oil deposits in northeastern Syria.
About 90 percent of Syrian oil reserves are concentrated to the east of the Euphrates River, the region that was previously a stronghold and main source of income for Daesh and is now mainly controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces.
US President Donald Trump himself has confirmed several times that his country’s main intention in Syria is to retain control over the oil fields in its northeast.
‘We have our troops out of there, and we will be bringing a lot of them back home, but again we are keeping the oil,’ Trump said at the beginning of his meeting with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on 13 November.
Damascus in its turn has voiced protests against American military contingent’s presence in the country and US’ plans to secure Syrian oil.
On 15 November, President Bashar al-Assad said that Damascus will lodge a complaint with the United Nations on Washington’s aim to control Syrian oil fields.
‘However, you and I, and many others in the world know that there is no United Nations because there is no international law; and so, all complaints lodged at the United Nations remain in drawers,’ the Syrian president told journalists.
Meanwhile, US Special Representative for Syria Engagement James Jeffrey in the latest development stated that Washington is not doing anything illegal by securing oil fields in Syria.
‘I have every belief that it is legal under international law,’ Jeffrey said responding to whether he considers US seizing the oil in the Arab republic legal under international law.
‘We are doing nothing illegal, the SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces) is continuing to work and control the fields as in the past, we will facilitate that work as part of our overall strategy towards Syria.’
Oil transit vehicles gather near Tall Daman oil station in Syria, 43 km east of Deir ez-Zor
The White House announced in early October that US troops would withdraw from northern Syria, where they were supporting the mainly-Kurdish fighters.
This decision paved the way for Turkey’s operation targeting the Kurdish militia, which it believes to be linked to extremist groups, and Daesh. However, the United States has since stressed it wants to retain control of oil fields in northern Syria.