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Posts tagged as Doha

Culture: Qatar’s US$434m desert rose museum finally blooms

ALMOST a decade in the making, three years late and at an estimated cost of US$434 million (RM1.77 billion), Qatar’s vast national museum, built in the shape of a desert rose, opens this week.A glittering ceremony, expected to include Qatar’s ruler Sheikh Tamim Hamad al-Thani, Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah and French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, takes place tomorrow, with the doors opening to the public the next day.“Architecture to give a voice to heritage whilst celebrating (the) future,” tweeted the museum’s renowned French architect Jean Nouvel, also responsible for the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

The pale, futuristic 52,000-sq m structure located on Doha’s waterfront corniche will be the first notable building visitors to Qatar see as they make their way from the airport to the city centre.Even in a country which is being built, rebuilt and utterly transformed for the 2022 football World Cup, the national museum could be the single most eye-catching design of all Qatar’s new buildings.

The entrance includes 114 fountain sculptures in a 900m-long lagoon and the museum’s multi-curved roof, which resembles a giant jigsaw puzzle, is made up of 76,000 panels in 3,600 different shapes and sizes.Inside, there is more than 1,500m of gallery space.Among the exhibits is a 19th century carpet embroidered with 1.5 million Gulf pearls and the oldest Quran yet discovered in Qatar, also dating back to the 1800s.

“This is a museum that narrates the story of the people of Qatar,” Sheikha Amna Abdulaziz Jassim al-Thani, the museum’s director, has stated.The National Museum of Qatar also stands on the site of the former palace of Sheikh Abdullah Jassim al-Thani — son of the founder of modern Qatar.
The palace has been restored as part of the massive project.The museum, which officials say celebrates Qatar’s Bedouin past and energy-rich present, also reflects the country’s massive wealth and ambition. ‘Post-blockade identity’And as well as an architectural and cultural statement, the new museum is also a political one by the Qataris.It is among a growing list of spectacular buildings in Qatar, including the recently opened national library and Museum of Islamic Art further along the corniche.
The national museum is also the latest in the cultural “arms race” and soft power course among Gulf nations, which includes Nouvel’s Louvre in Abu Dhabi opened to huge fanfare in 2017, designed to show-off the progressive aspects of the various competing emirate states.And for Qatar, the museum’s delayed opening — originally scheduled for 2016 — has given it a chance to reinforce its national identity from other Gulf states, say experts.Since June 2017, Qatar has been diplomatically and economically blockaded by neighbouring former allies, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, accused among other things of supporting terrorism. Qatar rejects all charges and says the blockade is an attack on its sovereignty.The bitter dispute has fractured long-standing Gulf alliances and the new museum will allow Qatar to reinforce its separateness from its rivals, says Sigurd Neubauer, a Middle East analyst based in Washington.

“On the basic level the museum represents Qatari identity which has really accelerated in the post-blockade environment,” he said.At the same time as the reputation of Doha’s rivals appear “inward-looking and regressive”, because of incidents like the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Qatar’s standing is the “opposite”, adds Neubauer.“It’s really not about the building, Qatar is trying to create an environment and national identity that provides a space towards independent thinking.“It is doubling down on its own progressive reforms.”

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Crisis with India can have unintended impact on Afghan peace process: Maleeha

NEW YORK: The ongoing crisis with India means that Pakistan’s full focus has to be on its eastern frontier and that has implications for the nascent Afghan peace process, Pakistan’s Representative to the United Nations Maleeha Lodhi said.
Although she stopped short of saying this would affect Pakistans role in the process, her message was clear that the shift in focus could have that unintended results.
Our attention is going to be where we feel there is a military threat to us,” Ambassador Lodhi said in response to a question about the possible impact of the simmering India-Pakistan tensions stemming from the Kashmir dispute.Qatar offers mediation to de-escalate tensions between Pak, IndiaThat ongoing threat, she clarified, was from India.
The latest round of Afghan peace talks is taking place in Doha, Qatar, between Zalmay Khalilzad, the American special envoy, and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban’s deputy leader, who for the first time is taking a more direct role in the process.“Both (Afghanistan) and (Kashmir) issues are important in their own right.
But it is the eastern border, from where India attacked Pakistan. They sent planes into our territory.That’s a hot border,” the envoy added.“Afghanistan is a different situation.We would like that war to end. But we don’t perceive a threat from our western border.
It’s our eastern border from where we continue to perceive a threat.“We are in the midst of a very tense situation, a very fraught situation,” the Pakistani envoy continued.The Indian leadership is failing to respond to Prime Minister Imran Khans repeated gestures (for peace), which included freeing and releasing the Indian pilot.”The turmoil in Kashmir escalated on February 14, after a suicide bombing killed more than 40 Indian paramilitary troops in Kashmir.Pakistan categorically denied any involvement and offered to investigate, but India still went ahead and dropped bombs inside Pakistani territory.We kept asking the Indians to give us what you have and we will act on it, Ambassador Lodhi said, adding that only couple of days ago, the so-called dossier has been handed over Pakistan.Theresa May lauds PM Imran’s peace overtures amid Pak-India tensionsWe are examining that dossier to see if there is anything there on which we need to act, and we will act if there is any solid evidence, but we cannot act on the basis of allegations, she said.Replying to a question about Kashmir, the Pakistani envoy said the dispute has been there for the past 70 years.
“It has to be addressed, in its own right and (on) its own merits because it will remain an issue that will lead to repeated tensions between India and Pakistan and in any case, it is an issue that is on the Security Council agenda and it has resolutions that remain unimplemented.

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Afghan Taliban, US suspend talks for two days

PESHAWAR: The Afghan Taliban and American officials on Thursday suspended the peace talks for two days and agreed to resume negotiations from Saturday after they failed to evolve consensus on two major issues – US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid and US Special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation confirmed suspension of talks for two days.
Taliban sources in Qatar, however, said the talks were suspended for two days after the US negotiation team allegedly deviated from the two main topics and started discussing other irrelevant issues and pressed to declare on ceasefire. They said there was a deadlock in talks and this was the reason the process was suspended for two days.
This issue is not that much simple to be resolved within two or three rounds of talks. We were told to discuss two major issues US withdrawal from Afghanistan and our commitment not to let our soil to be used against any country and particularly the US and its allies after we reached an agreement, said a senior member of the Afghan Taliban.However, he stated that the US delegation members deliberately’ deviated from the main agenda and started asking questions about the future government in Afghanistan, women rights and Taliban relations with the international community. Some of the Taliban representatives had adopted a very simple approach towards peace talks and wanted to find a negotiated settlement of the Afghan conflict but unfortunately that does not seem to be easy, the Taliban leader argued.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid in a statement said: Amid the ongoing talks between the negotiation teams of Islamic Emirate and United States in the Qatari capital of Doha, extensive discussions were held about the method of foreign troops’ withdrawal from Tuesday till Wednesday noon and from that time onwards, discussion revolved around preventing Afghanistan from being used against others.He said the meeting ended on Wednesday night, as both negotiation teams agreed to take a break today (Thursday) and tomorrow (Friday) for consultations and preparation for the third meeting which shall be held on Saturday.
According to Zabihullah Mujahid, Taliban’s head of the Political Commission, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar held a meeting with Zalmay Khalilzad, the top NATO commander General Scott Miller and senior Qatar government officials including deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdul Rahman al-Thani and National Security Advisor Mohammad al-Masnad.Taliban sources said Mulla Baradar informed them about Taliban’s priorities and explained to them that they would continue to demand the withdrawal of US-led foreign forces from Afghanistan.Taliban said they had already explained their position about militant groups in Afghanistan such as al-Qaeda and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), saying no foreign militant group would be allowed to operate independently or use their soil against any other country.Zabihullah Mujahid said Mulla Baradar emphasized Taliban commitment to the current peace process and their struggle for peace and establishment of an Islamic system of government in Afghanistan.
Taliban sources said they had already maintained that al-Qaeda members who pleaded allegiance to their supreme leader Sheikh Haibatullah Akhunzada would not be asked to leave Afghanistan.They would need to live in Afghanistan and obey the Afghan constitution but would never run any militant group or use the Afghan soil against any other country.As for the ISIS or Daesh, we have nothing to do with it and would not allow it to create any law and order situation in the country if we came into power, said the Taliban leader.He said their talks with US had been practically suspended due to the deadlock and now the two sides would discuss the future line of action with their respective leadership.
Americans and particularly Zalmay Khalilzad during the talks demanded the Taliban to declare a ceasefire before the launch of Taliban’s proposed spring offensive, fearing that it would escalate fighting and attacks against foreign and Afghan forces. They repeatedly asked for ceasefire and our representatives constantly said No’ to them, said a Taliban leader privy to the peace talks in Doha.He said Taliban Rahbari Shura, the top decision-making Leadership Council, is expected to be approached and informed about the present deadlock in peace talks.We had agreed with Americans that irrelevant issues would be discussed later once we develop consensus on US withdrawal and our commitment to keep Afghanistan a peaceful country not posing threat to any country.But they started debating other issues that created a deadlock in talks, said the Taliban leader.Taliban and US representatives resumed the peace negotiations in Doha on February 25.
They were supposed to discuss the draft framework for US forces’ withdrawal and Taliban pledge to prevent Afghan soil from being used against other countries.The path to peace doesn’t often run in a straight line.
The situation in Afghanistan is complex and like all sensitive talks, not everything is conducted in public. We made significant progress on two vital issues: counter terrorism and troop withdrawal.That doesn’t mean we’re done. We’re not even finished with these issues yet, and there is still work to be done on other vital issues like intra-Afghan dialogue and a complete ceasefire, he explained.He added that skeptics have rushed to judgment based on just the first part of a much larger effort as though they have a completed agreement.But you can’t eat an elephant in one bite! And a forty year old war won’t be resolved in one meeting, even if that meeting runs for close to a week, said Khalilzad, a seasoned diplomat.He said it was a moment for the Afghans to begin to heal old wounds and chart a new course for their country.PESHAWAR: The Afghan Taliban and American officials on Thursday suspended the peace talks for two days and agreed to resume negotiations from Saturday after they failed to evolve consensus on two major issues – US withdrawal from Afghanistan and Taliban’s pledge of preventing their soil from being used by the militant groups in future against the United States and its allies.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid and US Special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation confirmed suspension of talks for two days. Taliban sources in Qatar, however, said the talks were suspended for two days after the US negotiation team allegedly deviated from the two main topics and started discussing other “irrelevant” issues and pressed to declare on ceasefire.They said there was a deadlock in talks and this was the reason the process was suspended for two days.“This issue is not that much simple to be resolved within two or three rounds of talks.We were told to discuss two major issues – US withdrawal from Afghanistan and our commitment not to let our soil to be used against any country and particularly the US and its allies after we reached an agreement,” said a senior member of the Afghan Taliban.However, he stated that the US delegation members ‘deliberately’ deviated from the main agenda and started asking questions about the future government in Afghanistan, women rights and Taliban relations with the international community.
“Some of the Taliban representatives had adopted a very simple approach towards peace talks and wanted to find a negotiated settlement of the Afghan conflict but unfortunately that does not seem to be easy,” the Taliban leader argued.Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid in a statement said: “Amid the ongoing talks between the negotiation teams of Islamic Emirate and United States in the Qatari capital of Doha, extensive discussions were held about the method of foreign troops’ withdrawal from Tuesday till Wednesday noon and from that time onwards, discussion revolved around preventing Afghanistan from being used against others.”He said the meeting ended on Wednesday night, “as both negotiation teams agreed to take a break today (Thursday) and tomorrow (Friday) for consultations and preparation for the third meeting which shall be held on Saturday.”According to Zabihullah Mujahid, Taliban’s head of the Political Commission, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar held a meeting with Zalmay Khalilzad, the top NATO commander General Scott Miller and senior Qatar government officials including deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdul Rahman al-Thani and National Security Advisor Mohammad al-Masnad.
Taliban sources said Mulla Baradar informed them about Taliban’s priorities and explained to them that they would continue to demand the withdrawal of US-led foreign forces from Afghanistan.Taliban said they had already explained their position about militant groups in Afghanistan such as al-Qaeda and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), saying no foreign militant group would be allowed to operate independently or use their soil against any other country.
Zabihullah Mujahid said Mulla Baradar emphasized Taliban commitment to the current peace process and their struggle for peace and establishment of an Islamic system of government in Afghanistan.Taliban sources said they had already maintained that al-Qaeda members who pleaded allegiance to their supreme leader Sheikh Haibatullah Akhunzada would not be asked to leave Afghanistan.
“They would need to live in Afghanistan and obey the Afghan constitution but would never run any militant group or use the Afghan soil against any other country. As for the ISIS or Daesh, we have nothing to do with it and would not allow it to create any law and order situation in the country if we came into power,” said the Taliban leader.He said their talks with US had been practically suspended due to the deadlock and now the two sides would discuss the future line of action with their respective leadership.“Americans and particularly Zalmay Khalilzad during the talks demanded the Taliban to declare a ceasefire before the launch of Taliban’s proposed spring offensive, fearing that it would escalate fighting and attacks against foreign and Afghan forces.
They repeatedly asked for ceasefire and our representatives constantly said ‘No’ to them,” said a Taliban leader privy to the peace talks in Doha.He said Taliban Rahbari Shura, the top decision-making Leadership Council, is expected to be approached and informed about the present deadlock in peace talks.
“We had agreed with Americans that irrelevant issues would be discussed later once we develop consensus on US withdrawal and our commitment to keep Afghanistan a peaceful country not posing threat to any country. But they started debating other issues that created a deadlock in talks,” said the Taliban leader.
Taliban and US representatives resumed the peace negotiations in Doha on February 25. They were supposed to discuss the draft framework for US forces’ withdrawal and Taliban pledge to prevent Afghan soil from being used against other countries.
“The path to peace doesn’t often run in a straight line. The situation in Afghanistan is complex and like all sensitive talks, not everything is conducted in public.
We made significant progress on two vital issues: counter terrorism and troop withdrawal. That doesn’t mean we’re done.
We’re not even finished with these issues yet, and there is still work to be done on other vital issues like intra-Afghan dialogue and a complete ceasefire,” he explained.He added that skeptics have rushed to judgment based on just the first part of a much larger effort as though they have a completed agreement.
“But you can’t eat an elephant in one bite! And a forty year old war won’t be resolved in one meeting, even if that meeting runs for close to a week,” said Khalilzad, a seasoned diplomat.He said it was a moment for the Afghans to begin to heal old wounds and chart a new course for their country.

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Talks with Taliban in Doha productive: US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad

US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad on Thursday said the latest talks with Taliban in Doha were “productive”. Khalilzad met with the Taliban’s top political leader in Doha starting Monday, in what is believed to be the highest level engagement between Khalilzad met with the Taliban’s top political leader in Doha starting Monday, in what is believed to be the highest level engagement between the US and the Taliban since the months-long peace push began.
Khalilzad had on February 25 tweeted that he and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar had held a “working lunch” ahead of a fresh round of talks with the insurgent group as the US seeks a way out of its longest war.”Both sides will take the next two days for internal deliberations, with plans to regroup on Saturday.
All four key issues remain on the table,” he added.In another tweet, Khalilzad said, “As talks continue in Doha, there is also progress on forming a national team in Kabul ready to engage in intra-Afghan dialogue and talks with the Taliban.
“Marathon talks last month saw the two sides walk away with a “draft framework” that included a Taliban vow to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a haven for international terror groups.There was no accord on a US withdrawal or a ceasefire, however, issues which have derailed attempts at peace talks in the past, while the government in Kabul has voiced increasingly loud fears it was being sidelined from the talks.
The latest negotiations came as violence soars in Afghanistan, with the UN reporting Sunday that more civilians were killed in 2018 than any other year since records began in 2009.US President Donald Trump has signalled his eagerness to end his country´s involvement in Afghanistan, where 14,000 American troops are still deployed.
Afghanistan has suffered nearly constant conflict since the Soviet invasion of 1979, which was followed by civil war, the Taliban regime, and the US invasion in late 2001.

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Civilian deaths in Afghan war hit record in 2018

KABUL: More civilians were killed in the Afghan war in 2018 than during any other year on record after nearly two decades of fighting, according to a UN report released Sunday.
The report’s release comes a day before the US and the Taliban hold their next round of talks aimed at ending the conflict, raising tentative hopes for peace along with fears that an American withdrawal could spark an even bloodier civil war.The talks in Doha follow years of escalating violence in Afghanistan. According to the UN, at least 32,000 civilians have been killed and another 60,000 wounded in the last decade when the organisation began compiling the data.
The uptick in violence in 2018 coincides with a significant increase in the number of deaths caused by the “deliberate targeting of civilians”, according to the report, mostly stemming from suicide attacks by insurgents allied with the Taliban or Islamic State (IS).”It is time to put an end to this human misery and tragedy,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the head of the UN mission in Afghanistan.”The best way to halt the killings and maiming of civilians is to stop the fighting,” he said. At least 65 suicide attacks were recorded in 2018 — the majority hitting Kabul — with militants responsible for the death of more than 2,200 civilians across the country.
An increase in air strikes by US and Afghan forces also led to more civilian deaths in 2018, with more than 500 civilians killed by “aerial operations for the first time on record”, the report noted.The US intensified its air campaign against Taliban and IS fighters as Washington seeks to pile pressure on the militants, dropping twice as many munitions on insurgent positions in 2018 compared to the previous year.Yamamoto said the civilian casualties were “wholly unacceptable” and called on all parties to take “immediate and additional concrete steps to stop a further escalation in the number of civilians harmed and lives destroyed”.Afghanistan has suffered nearly constant conflict since the Soviet invasion of 1979, which was followed by civil war, the Taliban regime, and the US invasion in late 2001.
The escalating violence comes as US President Donald Trump has been pushing to end US involvement in Afghanistan, where 14,000 American troops are still deployed.Marathon talks held in Doha in January sparked hopes of a breakthrough after the two sides agreed to a “draft framework” that included a Taliban vow to prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for international terror groups.But US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad — who is leading the American side negotiating with the Taliban — has emphasised that any troop withdrawal would depend on conditions on the ground. Critics remain skeptical of the talks for a number of reasons, primarily because they have not yet included the Afghan government, which the Taliban considers US-backed puppets.
Civilian deaths jumped by 11 percent from 2017 with 3,804 people killed and another 7,189 wounded, according to the UN figures, as suicide attacks and bombings wreaked havoc across the war-torn country.The report’s release comes a day before the US and the Taliban hold their next round of talks aimed at ending the conflict, raising tentative hopes for peace along with fears that an American withdrawal could spark an even bloodier civil war.
The talks in Doha follow years of escalating violence in Afghanistan. According to the UN, at least 32,000 civilians have been killed and another 60,000 wounded in the last decade when the organisation began compiling the data.
The uptick in violence in 2018 coincides with a significant increase in the number of deaths caused by the “deliberate targeting of civilians”, according to the report, mostly stemming from suicide attacks by insurgents allied with the Taliban or Islamic State (IS).”It is time to put an end to this human misery and tragedy,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the head of the UN mission in Afghanistan.
“The best way to halt the killings and maiming of civilians is to stop the fighting,” he said. At least 65 suicide attacks were recorded in 2018 — the majority hitting Kabul — with militants responsible for the death of more than 2,200 civilians across the country.An increase in air strikes by US and Afghan forces also led to more civilian deaths in 2018, with more than 500 civilians killed by “aerial operations for the first time on record”, the report noted.The US intensified its air campaign against Taliban and IS fighters as Washington seeks to pile pressure on the militants, dropping twice as many munitions on insurgent positions in 2018 compared to the previous year.
Yamamoto said the civilian casualties were “wholly unacceptable” and called on all parties to take “immediate and additional concrete steps to stop a further escalation in the number of civilians harmed and lives destroyed”.Afghanistan has suffered nearly constant conflict since the Soviet invasion of 1979, which was followed by civil war, the Taliban regime, and the US invasion in late 2001.The escalating violence comes as US President Donald Trump has been pushing to end US involvement in Afghanistan, where 14,000 American troops are still deployed.Marathon talks held in Doha in January sparked hopes of a breakthrough after the two sides agreed to a “draft framework” that included a Taliban vow to prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for international terror groups.But US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad — who is leading the American side negotiating with the Taliban  has emphasised that any troop withdrawal would depend on conditions on the ground. Critics remain skeptical of the talks for a number of reasons, primarily because they have not yet included the Afghan government, which the Taliban considers US-backed puppets.

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