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Efforts underway to rescue abducted Indians in Afghanistan

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Security officials in Afghanistan are working with local tribal elders to trace the seven Indian engineers abducted by the Taliban gunmen in the restive northern Baghlan province, media reports said on Monday.

Provincial police spokesman Zabiullah Shuja confirmed that the seven Indian engineers were abducted from the vicinity of Cheshma-e-Sher earlier today. He said the Indian engineers were working on a project for the construction of a substation and were kidnapped by the militants as they were travelling in the area to inspect the work progress.

Provincial governor Abdul Nemati said the security forces and the local officials are busy tracking the missing engineers and their driver. He said apart from the security forces and the government officials, the local tribal elders have also stepped up their efforts for the release of the Indian nationals.

The external affairs ministry from New Delhi has assured that they are constantly in touch with their Afghan counterparts.

The anti-government armed militant groups including Taliban militants have not yet commented regarding the report so far.

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Khashoggi dsappearance: Turkey, US put pressure on Saudi Arabia

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Jamal Khashoggi

Khashoggi is a former government adviser who fled Saudi Arabia in September 2017 and lived in the US fearing arrest back home.

 

Istanbul, Oct 11 (AFP) Turkey and the United States on Thursday ratcheted up the pressure on Saudi Arabia to explain how a journalist vanished after entering its Istanbul consulate last week, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urging the release of CCTV footage from the mission.

The Washington Post, which Khashoggi wrote for, added to the still unresolved mystery by reporting Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had ordered an operation to “lure” the critical journalist back home.

Khashoggi, a Saudi national whose articles have criticised the prince, has not been seen since October 2 when he went to the consulate in Istanbul to obtain official documents for his upcoming marriage.

Turkish officials have said he was killed — reportedly by a 15-man “assassination team” that arrived on two planes — but Riyadh denies that.

The disappearance has captured international headlines and threatens to harm Saudi’s relations with both Ankara and Washington, as well as damage efforts by Prince Mohammed to improve the country’s image.

Erdogan challenged Saudi Arabia to provide CCTV images to back up its account that Khashoggi had left the consulate safely, indicating he did not find the current Saudi explanations sufficient.

“Is it possible there were no camera systems in a consulate, in an embassy?” he asked.

“If a bird flew, or a fly or a mosquito appeared, the systems would capture this; they (Saudi Arabia) have the most cutting-edge systems,” he was quoted as saying.

The consulate said CCTV cameras were not working that day and dismissed the murder claims as “baseless”.

The case is also threatening the strong relationship the Trump administration has built with Prince Mohammed, who wants to turn the oil-rich conservative kingdom into a hub for innovation and reform.

The two sides have worked together in confronting Iran despite growing concern over the prince’s campaign against dissidents, which critics say has revealed the true face of his rule.

In a reversal from Washington’s initial low-key response, President Donald Trump expressed determination to get to the bottom of the matter.

“We can’t let it happen. And we’re being very tough and we have investigators over there and we’re working with Turkey and frankly we’re working with Saudi Arabia,” Trump said in an interview with “Fox and Friends”.

However, a Turkish diplomatic source quoted by the state-run Anadolu news agency denied US investigators had been tasked to work on the case.

And Trump later said the United States was not limiting arms sales to Saudi Arabia over the case. “They’re going to take that money and spend it in Russia or China or someplace else,” he said.

Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary of key Saudi ally and trade partner, Britain, told AFP there would be “serious consequences” if the allegations were true.

Saudi Arabia also dropped a bid to join the world’s club of French-speaking countries, The International Organisation of the Francophonie (OIF).

Khashoggi is a former government adviser who fled Saudi Arabia in September 2017 and lived in the US fearing arrest back home.

In his columns for the Washington Post and comments elsewhere, he was critical of some policies of Mohammed bin Salman as well as Riyadh’s role in the war in Yemen.

While unnamed Turkish officials quoted in the media have been giving sometimes macabre details of the alleged murder, Erdogan has so far been more circumspect.

Erdogan said it would “not be right” to comment yet but said he had “concerns”.

“It’s not possible for us to stay silent regarding an incident like this,” he said.

Human Rights Watch urged Prince Mohammed to “release all evidence and information” concerning Khashoggi’s status Turkish authorities have been given permission to search the consulate — Saudi sovereign territory — but this has not yet taken place.

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Top US envoy on Iran to hold talks with India, European nations regarding oil import

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Iran

Responding to questions on reports that India will continue to purchase oil from Iran after November 4, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said this was not helpful.

 

Washington, Oct 12 (PTI) A top US envoy on Iran is headed to India this week for talks ahead of the November 4 deadline set by the Trump administration for countries to bring down their import of Iranian oil to zero.

In addition to India, Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook will be travelling to Europe to further discuss US foreign policy toward Iran.

During this week-long trip, Hook will engage “allies and partners on our shared” need to counter the entirety of the Iranian regime’s destructive behaviour in the Middle East, and in their own neighbourhoods, the State Department said.

In India, he and Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources Francis R Fannon will meet with their counterparts for consultations, and in Luxembourg, he will attend meetings with officials gathered for the European Union meeting of ministers.

In France, Hook and Bureau of Energy Resources officials will meet with the executive director of the International Energy Agency, and in Belgium, he will meet with EU counterparts to discuss the Iranian regime’s continued missile proliferation, the State Department said.

Meanwhile, it said it expected all allies and friends to bring down their purchase of Iranian oil to zero or be ready to face punitive sanctions beginning November 4.

Responding to questions on reports that India will continue to purchase oil from Iran after November 4, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said this was not helpful.

“Overall with regard to those sanctions that will take effect on November 4th and you’re referring to the oil sanctions for Iran and countries that choose to continue purchasing oil from Iran we have conversations with many partners and allies around the world about those sanctions,” she said.

“We make our policies very clear to those countries. We continue to have conversations with the government of Iraq about that particular issue and the implications for the reimposition of sanctions that were previously lifted or even waived under the JCPOA,” Nauert said.

The Trump administration has given the same message to all countries around the world, and the President has said that the United States is committed to re-enforcing all of its sanctions.

“We believe that countries coming together and recognising the malign influence that Iran has had around the world is important. We know that Iran and the government of Iran has taken the benefits that it received under the JCPOA and they’ve poured that money not into their own population, not into the good of the people, not into its medical hospitals and things of that nature, but rather they’ve used it for its own nefarious programmes,” Nauert said.

Noting that she has seen reports of India continuing to buy oil from Iran after November 4, she said this was a topic of conversation with the Indian government when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in India last month.

“The President had addressed it I believe it was just earlier today which he was asked about that question about whether or not India would buy oil from Iran after sanctions are reimposed. And the President said and I’m not going to get ahead of the President, certainly but he said we’ll take care of that,” she said.

“He was asked also about CAATSA sanctions and possible imposition of CAATSA sanctions. And he said, you know, India is going to find out. And India will find out. We’ll see. So I’m not going to get ahead of him, but certainly when we hear about things such as purchasing oil or the S-400 systems, it’s not helpful. The United States government just reviews that very carefully,” Nauert said.

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India appears all set to win election to UN Human Rights Council unopposed

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India had previously been elected to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council for the 2011-2014 and 2014-2017 term.

 

United Nations, Oct 12 (PTI) India appears set to be elected to the United Nations’s top human rights body in the Asia-Pacific category for a period of three years.

The 193-member UN General Assembly will elect new members on Friday to the UN Human Rights Council. The members are elected by the absolute majority through a secret ballot. Countries need a minimum of 97 votes to get elected to the Council.

India will be vying for the seat in the Asia Pacific category. Along with India, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Fiji and the Philippines will also stake a claim in the same regional group. Given that there are five nations vying for five seats in the Asia Pacific category, India’s election to the Council is all but certain.

Ahead of the election, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin had tweeted that “Pitching together. Bahrain, Bangladesh, Fiji, India & the Philippines stake claim to 5 seats for Asia-Pacific region at Human Rights Council elections.”

The new members will serve a term of three years beginning January 1, 2019. India had previously been elected to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council for the 2011-2014 and 2014-2017 term. Its last tenure had ended on December 31, 2017, and in accordance with the rules, it was not eligible for immediate re-election since it had already served two consecutive terms.

Created by the Assembly in March 2006 as the principal United Nations body dealing with human rights, the Human Rights Council comprises 47 elected Member States.

On the basis of equitable geographical distribution, Council seats are allocated to the five regional groups as follows: the African States, 13 seats; Asia Pacific States, 13 seats; the Eastern European States, 6 seats; Latin American and Caribbean States, 8 seats; and Western European and other States, 7 seats.

All five of the General Assembly’s regional groups submitted competition-free slates, meaning that all candidates, regardless of their rights records, are virtually assured seats on the council.

Since 18 nations are vying for a total of 18 seats across five geographical groups, they are expected to be elected unopposed. Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Eritrea, Somalia and Togo are vying for five seats in the African States category, Bulgaria and Czech Republic for two seats in the Eastern European States group, Argentina, Bahamas and Uruguay for three seats in the Latin American & Caribbean States group and Austria, Denmark and Italy for three vacant seats in the Western European & other States category.

On the eve of the elections, rights group Human Rights Watch said UN member countries should oppose the candidacies of the Philippines and Eritrea for the Human Rights Council because of their “egregious human rights records.

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