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FM Qureshi returns to Pakistan from Jeddah

The Foreign Minister came back from Jeddah today morning where he had gone earlier to perform his pre-scheduled Hajj.


The Minister is scheduled to appear in the joint parliamentary session today amidst the rapidly changing regional scenario.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said on Tuesday that India’s act of abolishing special status for held Kashmir is a blatant violation of international laws and tantamount to playing havoc with regional peace.

He was addressing an emergency meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Contact Group in Jeddah called to discuss developments in the wake of India’s move to revoke Article 370 of its constitution that stripped the held territory of its special rights.

“Abolishing Article 370 and 35-A by Indian parliament is a flagrant violation of international laws,” Qureshi said.
He lamented that thousands of Kashmiris had been martyred by Indian forces in the occupied territory since 1989.

The foreign minister said the deployment of more troops, closure of educational institutions and imposition of emergency like measures by India in held Kashmir, which is the most militarised region in the world, lay bare malevolent intentions of India.

He said he had brought the attention of the United Nations Security Council and General Secretary OIC to the apprehensions of Pakistan regarding the measures and steps taken by India. He added India’s steps can endanger peace in South Asia.

FM Qureshi urged the participants of the meeting to pay immediate attention towards this issue.

The delegations from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, and other member countries participated in the meeting.

The Pakistani delegation was led by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

Turkey readies for action as US talks on Syria safe zone struggle

ANKARA – Deep differences between Turkey and the United States over the scope and command of a planned “safe zone” in northeast Syria raise the prospect of Turkish military action unless the two countries break months of deadlock in talks this week.

President Tayyap Ardogan

Turkey has twice sent troops into northern Syria in the last three years and President Tayyib Erdogan said on Sunday a third incursion was imminent, targeting Kurdish-controlled territory east of the Euphrates river.

Ankara views the Kurdish YPG militia, which plays a leading role in the Syrian Democratic Forces that hold sway over hundreds of miles (km) of Syria’s northeast border region, as terrorists who pose a grave security threat to Turkey, saying they must be driven back from frontier areas.

Washington, which armed and backed them in the fight against Islamic State in Syria, wants to protect its military partners and has resisted Turkey’s demands for full control of a long strip of land that would extend 32 km (20 miles) into Syria.

Military delegations from both countries are meeting in Ankara this week, the latest attempt in months of talks on setting up the safe zone which they agreed to form as President Donald Trump’s administration reduces troop numbers in Syria.

Three Turkish officials who spoke to the media expressed impatience that the talks have yet to yield results, and warned that Ankara was ready to act on its own.

“For some time, Turkey’s armed forces have deployed on the Syrian border. All the necessary preparations for an operation are complete,” a senior Turkish official said.

“If we have to do this business on our own, we will. Of course the sensitivities of the countries with which we cooperate are important but they finally have to understand us. Every passing day is a loss.”

The safe zone impasse is just one of several disputes between the two NATO partners. Turkey angered the United States last month by buying Russian missile defence equipment, and the two countries are also split over Washington’s Iran sanctions and refusal to extradite a Muslim cleric wanted by Ankara.

Trump’s special envoy for Syria said after an earlier round of talks on the safe zone last week that Turkey had taken a “pretty tough” position. “The Turks want a deeper zone than the one we think makes sense,” James Jeffrey said.

Washington has proposed a two-tiered zone, with a 5-kilometre (three-mile) demilitarized strip bolstered by an additional 9 km cleared of heavy weapons – stretching in total less than half the distance into Syria that Turkey is seeking.

The United States has sought, with little sign of success, military contributions from European allies to police the area. Turkey has said it must have ultimate authority over the safe zone, another point of divergence with the United States.
“When Ankara says it wants to control the 32-km zone, the United States can never agree to that,” said Aaron Stein, director of the Middle East program at the US think-tank Foreign Policy Research Institute.

Given that negotiations had “flatlined,” he said Turkey was likely to act unilaterally and pointed to several potential military targets including areas around the northern Syrian town of Manbij and the border towns of Tel Abyad or Kobane.

US forces operate to varying degrees in all three areas, meaning American troops could risk being caught up in hostilities if Turkey does take action.

US Defence Secretary Mark Esper said on Tuesday any Turkish operation into north Syria would be “unacceptable” and the United States would prevent unilateral incursions. He said he hoped this week’s talks in Ankara would succeed.

A Turkish security official said that differences between the two sides over the depth of the zone were narrowing but had not been completely bridged.

“The United States reached a point close to our proposal but a full agreement could not be reached,” he said, adding that Turkey insisted on the full 32 kilometres, as Trump himself endorsed in a January tweet.

“Fundamentally we want what Trump said to be implemented. It is not normal for talks to go on this long,” he said.

While Turkish officials are keen not to alienate the president, who has been far more sympathetic about Turkey’s purchase of the Russian defence systems than the US Congress, Erdogan repeated on Tuesday that Ankara was committed to clearing Kurdish fighters from its southern flank.
“Turkey cannot feel safe as long as this structure along our southern border, which is growing like a cancer, is not eliminated,” he told Turkish diplomats in Ankara.

“If we don’t do what is necessary today, we will have to do so by paying a high price later,” Erdogan said, signalling a new operation into Syria after the 2016 Euphrates Shield incursion and last year’s Olive Branch operation to drive Kurdish YPG fighters from the northern Syrian region of Afrin.

Pak, US share objective of reaching peaceful solution in Afghanistan, says PM Imran

WASHINGTON: Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that Pakistan has the same objective as the United States of reaching a peaceful solution in Afghanistan as quickly as possible.

Pak vs Us

Addressing members of the US Congress in Washington on Tuesday midnight in Pakistan, the premier said Pakistan had always close ties with the US and expressed the hope to get back to the relationship, which was based on truth and trust as well as mutual respect.

The Prime Minister asserted the whole idea of his tour was to make the people in the US have a better understanding of Pakistan. He observed, unfortunately, Pakistan was misunderstood in the US, especially after the horrific 9/11 attacks and the subsequent war against terrorism.

“More than 70,000 Pakistani died and our economy suffered enormous loss in the war,” the Prime Minister said, adding, Pakistan was fighting the US war of terror as it had nothing to do with the 9/11.

“Al Qaida was in Afghanistan and there were no militant Taliban in Pakistan. It was very important that he met President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and explained to them the way forward and that the relationship has to be based on mutual trust.”

He said Pakistan is trying its level best to bring Taliban to the negotiation table and significant achievement has been made so far in this regard. “However, it is not an easy task,” he said.

“The entire country including state institutions is on the same page for a common objective of a peaceful solution to the Afghan conflict.

Ahead of the address, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she was introduced to Pakistan during her time at university when another student, dressed in a sari, told her to read books in the library on Mohammed Ali Jinnah, through which she had learned about the “greatness of the statesmen”.

Pelosi said that the relationship between Pakistan and the United States was an “important one”.

As she welcomed the premier, Pelosi thanked Pakistan for the “beautiful gift” of Pakistani-Americans that the country had given to the US.

A number of congressmen and Co-Chair of Pakistan-US Caucus warmly received the Prime Minister at the Capitol Hill. They appreciated the role Pakistan was playing especially in the Afghan peace process. The congress members observed that Prime Minister Imran Khan had made history by proposing a solution to the lingering Afghan issue. They admitted Pakistan had suffered a lot in the war against terror and militancy.

Turkey warns United States against harmful steps over Russian S-400s

Turkey’s foreign ministry spokesman said the comments by the State Department’s Morgan Ortagus on Tuesday were not in line with the spirit and content of talks between presidents of the two countries at the G20 summit last month.

“We invite the U.S. side to avoid taking wrong steps, excluding diplomacy and dialogue, that will harm relations,” spokesman Hami Aksoy said, adding Ankara had still not received a response to its proposal to set up a working group to look into the impact of the S-400 purchase.

President Tayyip Erdogan said after meeting President Donald Trump in Osaka that the United States did not plan to impose sanctions on Ankara for buying the S-400s, which he said would arrive in the first half of July. Trump said Turkey had not been treated fairly but did not rule out sanctions.

The United States says the S-400s are not compatible with NATO’s defense network and could compromise its Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter jets, an aircraft Turkey is helping to build and planning to buy.

Turkey could face expulsion from the F-35 program and other U.S. sanctions if it goes ahead with the S-400 delivery. Washington has already halted training of Turkish pilots in the United States on the aircraft.