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Afghanistan special envoys to meet in Doha

Afghanistan special envoys to meet in Doha

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Afghanistan special envoys to meet in Doha

National and regional special envoys to Afghanistan are to convene in Doha Sunday in the second UN meeting of its kind in less than a year, with uncertainty hanging over whether Taliban authorities would join.

The two-day meeting, hosted by the UN secretary-general, will discuss increasing engagement with Afghanistan and a more coordinated response to the Central Asian nation, Antonio Guterres’ spokesman told reporters Thursday.

In the aftermath of the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan in 2021, the international community has wrestled with its approach to the country’s new rulers.

On the eve of the convention in gas-rich Qatar, which hosted the Taliban during years of peace talks with the United States, the administration’s participation remains unclear.

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The UN has extended an invitation to the Taliban authorities to participate in the Doha convention, following their exclusion from the first meeting in May.

A senior diplomatic source told AFP the Taliban government had said it will only if they are the sole representative of Afghanistan at the convention – excluding civil society representatives.

A second demand was that the Taliban government delegation meet with the UN secretary-general and be given an opportunity to present its position, the source said, on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of discussions.

On Saturday Taliban authorities said they had reiterated their conditions to the United Nations, emphasising that their participation in the UN-convened talks would be “unbeneficial” if those conditions were not met.

‘Significant opportunity’

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The Taliban’s government in Kabul has not been officially recognised by any other government since it took power and the administration has imposed a strict interpretation of Islam, with women bearing the brunt of laws characterised by the UN as “gender apartheid”.

Many governments, international organisations and aid agencies cut off or severely scaled back their funding for Afghanistan in response – causing a serious knock to the already struggling economy.

The meeting in Qatar will also consider the recommendations of a UN independent assessment on Afghanistan, which has suggested recognition of the Taliban authorities be tied to the removal of restraints on women’s rights and access to education.

The assessment, backed by Western nations, also recommends the appointment of a UN special envoy, which the Taliban government has also rejected.

Ahead of the gathering in Doha, Tomas Niklasson, EU special envoy for Afghanistan, said the meeting offered a “significant opportunity to meet to hold meaningful discussions” and “engage on a way forward, based on the report, in a UN-led process”.

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The UN’s Working Group on Women, Peace and Security said the meeting in Doha “offers an important opportunity for the UN, the Security Council and the international community to reaffirm that the rights of Afghan women are not negotiable”.

“Respect for women’s rights must be a core objective of the international community’s engagement on Afghanistan, and a priority agenda item for discussions in Doha,” it added in a statement. 

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Ukraine sharply boosts delivery of drones to armed forces

Ukraine sharply boosts delivery of drones to armed forces

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Ukraine sharply boosts delivery of drones to armed forces

Ukraine has delivered three times more drones to its armed forces so far this year than in the whole of 2023, a top commander said, as Ukrainian forces accelerate the use of unmanned craft in the war against Russia.

“This process continues and will only grow,” said Colonel Vadym Sukharevskyi, the commander of Ukraine’s drone forces.

Ukraine, which has been fighting off a full-scale Russian invasion for nearly 26 months, is seeking to ramp up its domestic arms manufacturing and use of innovative technologies to compete against its much larger and wealthier enemy.

He was speaking at an exhibition on Saturday showcasing Ukrainian-made unmanned vehicles for land, sea and air, electronic warfare systems and armoured vehicles.

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Ninety-nine percent of drones used by the Ukrainian military are produced domestically, Sukharevskyi said.

“It’s no secret that our resource limitations in artillery are compensated by drones, such as FPVs (first-person view) and (bomber) drop drones,” he told reporters, referencing an imbalance of artillery firepower between Ukraine and Russia which analysts put at six to one in Russia’s favour.

As the Ukrainian military is outgunned and outmanned on the battlefield, Moscow’s forces have been increasing pressure along the entire frontline and making gradual gains.

The increased use of drones by both sides has been shifting the conflict away from the battlefield to strikes on each other’s military, energy and transport infrastructure.

Ukrainian Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), used to hit targets inside Russia in recent months, can now hit targets more than 1,200 km (750 miles) away, Sukharevskyi said.

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Tesla will lay off more than 10% of its workforce.

Oleksandr Kamyshin, Ukraine’s Minister of Strategic Industries, said Ukrainian weapons manufacturers had fuelled both military and economic progress in the country.

Ukraine’s booming military-industrial complex grew GDP by 1.5% in 2023, a significant chunk of the total GDP growth last year of around 5%.
Kamyshin said he was confident that figure would double to 3% of GDP growth this year. But he warned Ukraine’s government could not afford to buy up all its domestic weapons production.

Ukraine was in discussions with international allies about the purchase of weapons for Ukraine from Ukrainian makers to cover the financial shortfall, he said.

“I am convinced that we will start purchases from Ukrainian manufacturers with foreign funds in the new future,” he said. 

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Aseefa Bhutto Zardari sworn in MNA

Aseefa Bhutto Zardari sworn in MNA

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Aseefa Bhutto Zardari sworn in MNA

Aseefa Bhutto Zardari was sworn in as a member of the National Assembly.

NA Speaker Ayaz Sadiq administered the oath.

During the session, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari provided headphones to Aseefa Bhutto Zardari to reduce the noise disturbances as PTI MNAs raised slogans calling for the release of the PTI founder.

Following Aseefa Zardari’s swearing-in, PPP members also chanted slogans in support of the Bhutto family like ‘jiye Bhutto’. 

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British jets shot down Iranian drones, PM Sunak says

British jets shot down Iranian drones, PM Sunak says

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British jets shot down Iranian drones, PM Sunak says

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Sunday that British military jets shot down drones launched by Iran in its attack on Israel and called for “calm heads to prevail” to avoid an escalation of the conflict.

“I can confirm that our planes did shoot down a number of Iranian attack drones,” Sunak told broadcasters.

“If this attack had been successful, the fallout for regional stability would be hard to overstate. We stand by the security of Israel and the wider region, which is of course important for our security here at home, too. What we now need is for calm heads to prevail.”

Sunak was due to join discussions between Group of Seven leaders later on Sunday.

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“It’s important that we coordinate with allies and we’ll be discussing next steps at that moment,” he said

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