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Jerusalem issue must be resolved through direct negotiations between parties: UN chief

New York – In the wake of the announcement by the United States President Donald Trump recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres stressed that there is no alternative to the two-state solution and that Jerusalem is an issue that must be resolved through direct negotiations between the parties.

In this moment of great anxiety, I want to make it clear: there is no alternative to the two-state solution. There is no Plan B, said Guterres, speaking to the press at UN headquarters in New York.

In his remarks, the UN chief noted that it is only by realizing the vision of two states living side-by-side in peace, security and mutual recognition, with Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and Palestine, and all final status issues resolved permanently through negotiations, that the legitimate aspirations of both peoples will be achieved.

I understand the deep attachment that Jerusalem holds in the hearts of so many people. It has been so for centuries and it will always be, he added.

He also noted that since he took up his post as UN Secretary General, he has consistently spoken out against any unilateral measures that would jeopardize the prospect of peace for Israelis and Palestinians.

For my part as the UN Secretary General, I will do everything in my power to support the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to return to meaningful negotiations and to realize this vision of a lasting peace for both people, he stated.

Source: International Islamic News Agency

US State Department Issues Worldwide Caution for US Travelers

The U.S. State Department has issued a “worldwide caution” warning after President Donald Trump’s announcement Wednesday the U.S. would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the American embassy there.

“U.S. government facilities worldwide remain in a heightened state of alert,” the warning reads. “These facilities may temporarily close or periodically suspend public services to assess their security posture. In those instances, U.S. embassies and consulates will make every effort to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens.”

The warning went on to urge American citizens to be aware of local developments and remain in contact with U.S. embassies or consulates.

As terrorist attacks, political upheaval, and violence often take place without any warning, U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness when traveling, it reads. In addition to concerns stemming from terrorism, travelers should be alert to the possibility of political unrest, violence, demonstrations, and criminal activities when traveling.”

The State Department listed “soft targets” that may be subject to terrorist attacks, including high-profile events, hotels, places of worship, schools, parks, shopping malls, airports, and airplanes.

Countries that have specific advisories of importance include Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, the Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, North Korea, Philippines, Turkey, Ukraine, Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Colombia, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, and Venezuela.

Matt Lee, a diplomatic reporter for the Associated Press, noted on Twitter that such a warning was last issued in 2003 after the start of the Iraq War when the State Department believed an attack against U.S. citizens by al-Qaida was imminent.

Source: Voice of America

NATO: Upgrading Afghan Army Base, Not Building New One

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN NATO’s Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan has denied reports that construction material and equipment being imported and transported through neighboring Pakistan are being used to establish a new army base in the conflict-hit country.

The English-language Pakistani newspaper DAWN reported Wednesday, citing official documents it claimed to have seen, that the imports are being used to construct a military facility by the name of Camp Shaheen.

Recently, a vessel loaded with a huge quantity of construction material and allied equipment arrived at Karachi port. As per its import general manifestation, the imports were made by the United States Army Corps of Engineers Services, the report said.

The imported material reportedly included a power generator of 22 megawatts, and a large quantity of cold- and hot-rolled steel sheets. Other equipment, such as plastic injection molding machines with standard accessories, also were supplied from different world ports.

Camp is used for training

But U.S. Army Captain Tom Gresback, the public affairs director at NATO mission headquarters in Kabul said, Camp Shaheen is not a new camp, and it has been used as an ANDSF (Afghan National Defense Security Forces) training facility for many years.

He told VOA the United States routinely works alongside local and international contractors who support sustainment and construction projects throughout Afghanistan.

In the case of Camp Shaheen, there is an ongoing plan to save costs and reduce pollution by moving the base away from generated power to a grid power system, the spokesman explained.

The United States and allied forces mostly rely on ground and air lines of communications through Pakistan for transporting supplies to about 13,000 foreign soldiers in landlocked Afghanistan. The numbers are expected to increase to more than 16,000 in the wake of pledges to implement a U.S. and NATO troop surge following President Donald Trump’s new Afghan strategy, which was announced in August.

Camp Shaheen is located in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif and serves as the headquarters for the Afghan army’s 209th Corps. In April, the facility was the scene of the deadliest attack the Taliban have conducted on an Afghan military base during the past 16 years.

Attacks on Camp Shaheen

At least 10 heavily armed insurgents, wearing uniforms and driving military vehicles, stormed Camp Shaheen, killing about 150 soldiers,although local media put the death toll at more than 250. At least 160 other soldiers were injured.

Two months later in June, seven American soldiers were shot and wounded by an Afghan commando during a training session at the same base.

Officially referred to as insider or so-called green-on-blue attacks have posed serious problems for the NATO-led coalition that is made up mostly of U.S. soldiers. Taliban infiltrators or sympathizers have carried out such attacks that have claimed dozens of lives of American army officers.

Source: Voice of America

Jhagra lauds Pakistan Scouts’ services

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Iqbal Zafar Jhagra says Pakistan Scouts have always rendered innumerable services in natural calamities and proved its worth in every hour of need in the country.

Presiding over a meeting of the Boy Scouts Council in Peshawar on Tuesday, he said the Scouts prepare youth to become best citizens and perform a leading role in the future of the nation.

Iqbal Zafar Jhagra appreciated the role of Boy Scouts Association for wellbeing of the humanity.

He stressed that concrete steps would be taken to overcome the shortage of Scouts budget. The meeting approved budget of the council for the fiscal year 2017-18.

Source: Radio Pakistan

Pakistan PM: ‘Nobody Wants Peace in Afghanistan More Than Pakistan’

KUWAIT CITY, KUWAIT Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said Monday at the start of talks with visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis that Pakistan is committed to the war against terror.

“Nobody wants peace in Afghanistan more than Pakistan,” Abbasi said.

He added that the United States and Pakistan “share the same common objectives.”

Monday’s meeting in Islamabad also included Pakistan’s interior minister, national security adviser and the Inter-Services Intelligence chief.

Mattis did not offer any public comment on Monday’s talks.

Ahead of his visit to Islamabad he said he did not plan to “prod” Pakistan, but expected it to adhere to its promises to combat terrorism. He also expressed hope for a collaborative approach.

“I believe that we (can) work hard on finding common ground and then we work together,” Mattis said.

In October, Mattis warned the United States is willing to work “one more time” with Pakistan before taking “whatever steps are necessary” to address its alleged support for militants.

But on Sunday, Mattis said he is focused on trying to find “more common ground … by listening to one another without being combative.”

The United States has for a decade accused Pakistan of sheltering or having ties to terrorists, such as the Haqqani Network and the Afghan Taliban, which attack NATO coalition forces in neighboring Afghanistan.

Islamabad rejects the accusation, saying Washington is scapegoating Pakistan for its own failures in Afghanistan, where the United States remains in a stalemate after 16 years of war.

Tougher stance

Before Mattis’ visit, other Trump administration officials are taking a harder public stance on Pakistan.

Speaking at a defense forum Saturday, CIA director Mike Pompeo said, “We are going to do everything we can to ensure that safe havens no longer exist,” if Pakistan does not heed the U.S. message on militants.

Since 2004, the CIA has conducted drone strikes – mostly against al-Qaida and Pakistani Taliban targets – in northwest Pakistan, near the border with Afghanistan.

The United States is considering expanding those strikes, along with several other measures, according to media reports.

Other options include downgrading Pakistan’s status as a major non-NATO ally or sanctioning individual Pakistani leaders suspected having ties with the Taliban.

But any kind of punitive action wouldn’t take place for at least a few weeks at minimum, predicts Michael Kugelman, a South Asia analyst with the Woodrow Wilson Center.

“I think (the administration) wants to give the Pakistanis a bit more time to see if they’re responding to the various demands the United States made of them when it comes to cracking down on terrorists,” said Kugelman.

One of the likelier U.S. responses, according to Kugelman, is expanding not only the geographic scope of the drone war, but also widening the type of targets the United States goes after.

“I think we could start seeing the U.S. trying to target more Haqqani Network and Afghan Taliban targets,” especially in the sparsely populated Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces, he said.

The Trump administration has also threatened cut off aid to Pakistan. Since 2002, the United States has given over $33 billion in assistance to Pakistan. But the aid has already been cut sharply in recent years.

Pakistani leverage?

If ties were to deteriorate, the United States also has much to lose. Pakistan controls U.S. military supply routes to landlocked Afghanistan, and could close them down, as they did in 2011. The United States would also like Pakistan to scale back its nuclear modernization, improve ties with India, and stay engaged in the broader fight against Islamic militants.

But despite the risks, Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, warns Washington appears to be running out of patience.

“For many years we were trying to hold out hope that the Pakistanis would change their mind about Afghanistan and our role there,” he said. “But those kinds of hopes aren’t as prevalent anymore. And on balance, therefore, I think we are closer to using some of those tougher methods.”

Mattis, who is on a regional tour that also took him to Egypt, Jordan, and Kuwait, wouldn’t elaborate on any possible U.S. action. But he says the situation is pressing.

“There’s always an urgency to something when 39 nations plus Afghanistan have their troops in the midst of a long war where casualties are being taken,” he said.

Source: Voice of America

Iran Inaugurates New Extension to its Main Arabian Sea Port

TEHRAN, IRAN Iranian President Hassan Rouhani inaugurated on Sunday a newly built extension to the country’s main Arabian Sea outlet, the strategic Chabahar Port on the Gulf of Oman, which more than triples its capacity and poses a challenge for a port under construction in neighboring Pakistan.

The $340 million project was constructed by a Revolutionary Guard-affiliated company, Khatam al-Anbia, the largest Iranian contractor of government construction projects. It involved several subcontractors, including a state-run Indian company, and brings the capacity of the port to 8.5 million tons of cargo annually, from the previous 2.5 million tons.

The extension includes five new piers, two of them for containers allowing cargo vessels with up to 100,000-ton captaincy to dock.

It is also expected to make Chabahar, Iran’s closest sea link to the Indian Ocean, a rival to Gwadar Port, some 80 kilometers away (50 miles) across the border in Pakistan, which Pakistan has been building with Chinese investment.

Rouhani, however, downplayed the rivalry in his inauguration speech and said the port will bring “more engagement and unity” among regional countries.

“We should go after positive competition,” he said. “We welcome other ports in the region, we welcome Gwadar’s development.”

He said Iran also plans to link the port to the country’s railroad network to facilitate transit of goods to neighboring landlocked Central Asian countries, as well as open a route to eastern and northern Europe through Russia.

Iranian state TV said the inauguration was attended by dignitaries from India, Qatar, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries.

For India, the investment in Chabahar was important since the port will bolster a trade route for land-locked Central Asian countries that would bypass rival Pakistan. Last year, India committed up to $500 million for the development of the Chabahar port along with associated roads and rail lines.

And last month, New Delhi shipped its first cargo of wheat to Afghanistan through the Iranian port, part of 130,000 tons that India plans to export to Afghanistan.

Chabahar also has an international airport and Iran’s Navy and Air Force have bases in the city, adding to the ports value.

Source: Voice of America