Islamabad, Sept 18 (AP/UNB) — Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan has pledged to grant citizenship to Pakistan-born children of Afghan and Bengali refugees who have been living in the country for decades.
Khan, in his first visit to commercial hub Karachi city, said hundreds of thousands of Afghans and Bangladeshis live in the country without the benefits of its social security system.
Addressing a fundraiser for dam construction, Khan said the children's lack of documentation and education has prevented them from getting jobs, so they turn to crime. He said his government will grant them citizenship.
His comments drew criticism from the opposition Pakistan People's Party on Monday. Provincial minister Saeed Ghani said Pakistan could not afford the move.
UN reports say Pakistan has the largest refugee population in the world, mostly from Afghanistan.
United Nations, Sep 18 (AP/UNB) — The United States and Russia clashed Monday over enforcing U.N. sanctions against North Korea, with the U.S. ambassador accusing Moscow of "cheating" and Russia's envoy accusing Washington of "political ill-intent."
The acrimonious meeting of the Security Council was called by U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who accused Russia of pressuring independent U.N. experts to alter a report on implementation of sanctions against North Korea that she said contained "evidence of multiple Russian sanctions violations."
The sharp disagreement marked a rare break in what has been a united response by the U.N.'s most powerful body to North Korea's escalating nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
It has unanimously imposed increasingly tough sanctions on Pyongyang that have cut off all North Korean exports, 90 percent of its trade, and disbanded its pool of workers send abroad to earn hard currency.
Haley said Russia's violations are "systematic," including ship-to-ship transfers of banned items, mainly oil but increasingly coal and other goods. She identified the Russian ship Patriot filmed transferring refined petroleum to a North Korean vessel and accused Moscow of trying to cover up violations "whether they're committed by Russia or citizens of other states."
Haley said the United States prevented publication of the "tainted" report that removed allegations against the Russians and demanded the release of the initial version.
Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia countered that the work of the panel of experts "became increasingly politicized, then became ultimately the hostages to the vision of Washington" and didn't take into account Russia's views.
"Unsurprisingly, therefore, we insisted on having our position reflected in the document," he said, and a compromise on the report was reached among all 15 council members — including the "American delegation" and U.S. "experts."
But Nebenzia said Haley put a hold on the report the following day, so it is the United States that is blocking release of the report and "the ball now is in your court."
The U.S. Mission said later in a statement: "Certainly no U.S. expert agreed - at any point in the process - to Russia's tainted version of the report."
Behind the U.S.-Russia squabble over implementing sanctions are the broader issues of how to achieve denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and when sanctions should be lifted.
The United States has kept up sanctions pressure on the North despite the historic summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in June that dialed down nuclear tensions between the adversaries. That first-ever meeting of leaders from the two countries has been followed by a diplomatic impasse over how to achieve the agreed-upon goal of denuclearization.
The U.S. has said sanctions won't be lifted until that goal is met. South Korean officials who recently met with Kim said he still has faith in Trump's commitment to ending their nations' hostile relations, but is frustrated by questions about his willingness to denuclearize and wants his "goodwill measures" to be met in kind.
Haley told the council that "the difficult, sensitive talks with North Korea are ongoing."
"The Trump-Kim summit has set us on the path toward complete denuclearization," she said. "But we are not there yet. And until we get there, we must not ease the powerful worldwide sanctions that are in place."
Nebenzia countered that "resolving the nuclear issue of the peninsula through just sanctions and pressure on Pyongyang is impossible." He charged that the U.S. is using the Security Council committee monitoring implementation of sanctions "as a sledgehammer to punish (North Korea) for their intransigence."
He cited welcome developments, including the North's suspension of missile and nuclear tests, dismantling of a missile engine test site, opening of a liaison office, and agreeing to a third summit of Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in starting Tuesday.
Noting difficulties in U.S.-North Korea negotiations, Nebenzia stressed that negotiations are "a two-way street."
"It is difficult to come to agreement if you offer nothing in return for your demands," he said.
"What can we expect when Pyongyang is being called upon to unconditionally agree to comply with all of the conditions against a guarantee of empty promises," Nebenzia asked, saying the U.S. has broken promises to Tehran and pulled out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
He called for "confidence-building measures," citing as a possibility the signing of a peace treaty to end the 1950-53 Korean War. Nebenzia said the Security Council also could consider creating temporary exemptions from sanctions to carry out projects promoting inter-Korean cooperation.
Chinese Ambassador Ma Zhaoxu said Beijing remains committed to implementing both sanctions and dialogue.
"Confrontation is a dead end," he said. "Resorting to force will bring nothing but disastrous consequences to the peninsula."
China, which is North Korea's closest ally and is responsible for 90 percent of its trade, believes the Security Council should take action to reverse sanctions "at the appropriate time" in light of Pyongyang's progress to denuclearization.
"This council should stay united, honor its responsibility entrusted by history and push for the denuclearization and lasting peace in northeast Asia," Ma said.
United Nations, Sep 18 (AP/UNB) — The U.N. envoy for Afghanistan said Monday that the war-torn country is in its best position since 2001 to start the process leading to peace talks with the Taliban.
Tadamichi Yamamoto told the U.N. Security Council that the road ahead will be most difficult, requiring "resilience and persistence."
He said Afghan government efforts, "which we hope would be reciprocated by the Taliban," need to be reinforced by regional and other key countries — and by confidence-building measures that could include prisoner releases and technical assistance in contested areas on agriculture, education and health.
Taliban officials said last week they are ready for a second round of talks with the U.S., possibly this month.
Yamamoto said he remains very concerned about security and political challenges to Afghanistan's first parliamentary elections since 2010, scheduled for Oct. 20.
"Operationally and technically, the preparations are on track," he said, but "political challenges could jeopardize the tight timelines and derail the elections unless all political leaders engage constructively and peacefully to ensure the elections are held on time."
The United Nations is also aware "of real fraud which might take place, as well as allegations of fraud which may have the tactical purpose of discrediting already difficult elections," Yamamoto said.
He said the elections, plus the presidential vote set for next April, will be a test for Afghanistan's young democratic institutions. The Independent Election Commission, which is in the lead, will be looked on to perform with "the highest degree of integrity, professionalism and with full accountability to the Afghan people," he added.
While the Taliban has said it is ready for more talks with the U.S., both the U.S. and Afghan governments have insisted that negotiations on Afghanistan's future be Afghan-led. Direct talks between Washington and the Taliban are viewed as a stepping stone toward Afghan-to-Afghan talks.
"Whatever setbacks may lie ahead, we are in a better position now than at any time in the past 17 years to commence the process which would lead to talks for a negotiated end to the conflict," Yamamoto told the council.
He said that "all sides must realize that there is no military solution to the conflict."
An upsurge in attacks and the highest civilian casualty toll ever recorded by the U.N. in the first six months of 2018 underscore the difficulties Afghan forces face in trying to secure the country on their own. The Afghan forces have struggled to combat both the Taliban and an Islamic State affiliate since the U.S. and NATO formally ended their combat mission in 2014.
Afghanistan's U.N. ambassador, Mahmoud Saikal, said the government is "keenly following" the envisioned U.S. talks with the Taliban.
"Lately, through increased diplomatic engagement with various partners, we have strengthened regional and international consensus in support of peace efforts," he said.
But, he said, real progress toward peace won't be possible "unless the consistent pattern to manipulate, misuse opportunities and deception for strategic gains comes to an end."
For nearly 25 years, Saikal said, "Afghanistan has turned into the site of what I term a 'geographical genocide target' of certain circles within our region," which he didn't identify.
He said regional and international support for the Afghan-led peace process "is vital" to its success.
Algiers, Sep 18 (AP/UNB) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel has met with Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika on Monday during a one-day visit to the country to discuss migration and the situation in neighboring Libya.
Algeria's official APS news agency reported the meeting happened in the presence Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia and other government members.
The discussions take on particular significance before April's presidential election in Algeria. No candidate has yet emerged because everyone is waiting to learn whether Bouteflika, 81, partially paralyzed from a stroke and rarely seen in public, will seek a fifth term.
Bouteflika travelled to Switzerland earlier this month for medical check-ups.
Algerian television channels showed images of Merkel and Bouteflika talking together.
In a joint news conference, Merkel and Ouyahia said they agreed on a process to send about 700 Algerian migrants identified as illegally staying in Germany back to their country.
Ouyahia suggested that German airline Lufthansa should help with their transfer in addition to Air Algeria. Algerian authorities requested that no special flight is chartered, he said.
"Algeria will take back its children staying irregularly in Germany," he said.
Merkel said they also discussed the situation in neighboring Mali and Libya, without providing details.
Before the talks, Merkel visited the hilltop memorial to "martyrs" who died in Algeria's war of independence with France that ended in 1962.
Germany was Algeria's fourth-largest commercial partner in 2017, with 200 German companies working in various sectors in the North African country.
This was Merkel's first visit to Algeria in a decade. Initially set for February 2017, it was postponed because Bouteflika was stricken with the flu.
Both countries also sought to deepen their economic cooperation.
Mohamed Saidj, professor of political science in Algiers, told The Associated Press that Merkel's meeting with Bouteflika provided the Algerian president an occasion to "show his adversaries that he keeps assuming normally the prerogatives of his office."
Saidj stressed that Algeria has strong economic links with Germany especially in mechanical engineering, the auto industry, renewable energy, the chemical sector and pharmaceuticals.
Pyongyang, Sep 18 (AP/UNB) — South Korean President Moon Jae-in arrived in North Korea on Tuesday for his third and possibly most challenging summit yet with leader Kim Jong Un in which he hopes to break an impasse in talks with the United States over the North's denuclearization and breathe energy into his own efforts to expand and improve relations between the Koreas.
In what are by now familiar images of the two Korean leaders hugging and exchanging warm smiles, Kim greeted Moon at Pyongyang's airport. They have met twice this year at the border village of Panmunjom, but Moon's visit is the first by a South Korean leader to the North Korean capital in 11 years.
Traveling with Moon are business tycoons including Samsung scion Lee Jae-yong, underscoring Moon's hopes to expand cross-border business projects. Currently, all major joint projects between the Koreas are stalled because of U.S.-led sanctions.
Moon was expected to have talks with Kim on Tuesday and Wednesday, according to Moon's chief of staff. Moon and Kim were also expected to jointly announce the results of their talks on Wednesday if things go smoothly. Moon is to return to Seoul on Thursday.
Moon and his wife, Kim Jung-sook, were greeted by Kim and his wife, Ri Sol Ju. The North Korean leader then led his guests to meet some of his senior officials, and they exchanged mutual greetings with Moon's delegation. Thousands of North Koreans cheered and waved flower bouquets and national and unification flags. North Korean soldiers and naval troops quick-marched into position to welcome Moon, and the two leaders inspected the honor guard, according to South Korean media pool footage from the site. A signboard said, "We ardently welcome President Moon Jae-in."
As Moon arrived, the North's main newspaper said the United States was responsible for the lack of progress in denuclearization talks.
"The U.S. is totally to blame for the deadlocked DPRK-U.S. negotiations," the Rodong Sinmun said in an editorial. It said Washington is "stubbornly insisting" the North dismantle its nuclear weapons first, an approach "which was rejected in the past DPRK-U.S. dialogues," while failing to show its will for confidence-building "including the declaration of the end of war which it had already pledged."
State-run media reported Moon was to begin a visit, but gave few details. Security was tight all morning. Requests by The Associated Press to go to the airport or to drive around the city were denied.
Moon is under intense pressure from Washington to advance the denuclearization process. Before his departure he said he intends to push for "irreversible, permanent peace" and for better dialogue between Pyongyang and Washington.
"This summit would be very meaningful if it yielded a resumption of North Korea-U.S. talks," Moon said Tuesday morning just before his departure. "It's very important for South and North Korea to meet frequently, and we are turning to a phase where we can meet anytime we want."
But his chief of staff tried to lower expectations of major progress on the future of Kim's nuclear arsenal.
Kim, meanwhile, is seemingly riding a wave of success.
The North just completed an elaborate celebration replete with a military parade and huge rallies across the country to mark North Korea's 70th anniversary. China, signaling its support for Kim's recent diplomatic moves, sent its third-highest party official to those festivities. That's important because China is the North's biggest economic partner and is an important political counterbalance to the United States.
North Korea maintains that it has developed its nuclear weapons to the point that it can now defend itself against a potential U.S. attack, and can now shift its focus to economic development and improved ties with the South. While signaling his willingness to talk with Washington, Kim's strategy has been to try to elbow the U.S. away from Seoul so that the two Koreas can take the lead in deciding how to bring peace and stability to their peninsula.
Talks between the United States and North Korea, which Moon brokered through his April and May summits with Kim, have stalled since Kim's meeting with President Donald Trump in Singapore in June.
North Korea has taken some steps, like dismantling its nuclear and rocket-engine testing sites, but U.S. officials have said it must take more serious disarmament steps before receiving outside concessions. Trump has indicated he may be open to holding another summit to resuscitate the talks, however.
To keep expectations from getting too high, Moon's chief of staff, Im Jong-seok, said it's "difficult to have any optimistic outlook" for progress on denuclearization during the summit.
But he said he still expects the summit to produce meaningful agreements that "fundamentally remove the danger of armed clashes and ease fears of war" between the two Koreas.
South Korea last week opened a liaison office in the North's city of Kaesong, near the Demilitarized Zone. Another possible area of progress could be on a formal agreement ending the Korean War, which was halted in 1953 by what was intended to be a temporary armistice. Military officials have discussed possibly disarming a jointly controlled area at the Koreas' shared border village, removing front-line guard posts and halting hostile acts along their sea boundary.
Moon is the third South Korean leader to visit North Korea's capital for summits. Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun went to Pyongyang in 2000 and 2007 respectively to meet Kim's father, Kim Jong Il. Those trips produced a slew of inter-Korean rapprochement projects, which were suspended after conservatives took power in Seoul.