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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Taliban Says It Is Ready for Peace Talks

The Taliban opened its political office in Doha, the capital of Qatar, with a press conference in which Mohammed Naim, its spokesman, announced that the militant group was prepared to meet with the Afghan government and open peace negotiations after 12 years of civil war. He also stressed the Taliban was eager to maintain good relations with the neighbouring countries in the region. “We want to keep good relations with all of the world countries, in particular with our neighbouring countries. But the Islamic emirate (the Taliban) sees the independence of the nation from the current occupation as a national and religious obligation”, said Naim in a statement televised by Al Jazeera. Reacting to the statement, Afghan president Mohammed Karzai said that representatives from his government would travel to Qatar to meet with the Taliban. Meanwhile, US officials said they would also open talks with the Taliban, with the first topic being a prisoner exchange with the group.

G8 Leaders Call for Syrian Peace Talks, Russia Disagrees on Assad

G8 leaders have released a communique asking for peace talks to be held as soon as possible to resolve the Syrian civil war, but with no mention of the fate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after negotiations. “We remain committed to achieving a political solution to the crisis based on a vision for a united inclusive and democratic Syria. We strongly endorse the decision to hold as soon as possible the Geneva conference on Syria”, read the communique. It is believed Russian President Vladimir Putin clashed with other leaders and resisted an agreement on the Syrian president’s fate, believing that a clear transition plan should be in place before Russia agreed to any move. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, speaking on the sidelines of the summit, said that mentioning Assad would be unacceptable for the Russian delegation. “We are convinced that it would be utterly wrong, harmful and would completely upset the political balance”, he explained.

Brazil Swept by Biggest Protests in 20 Years

Brazil saw its biggest protests in 20 years sweep its major cities on Monday night, with an estimated 200,000 people taking to the streets in marches covering a wide range of issues, from regional transportation fare hikes to corruption, the sums spent on hosting the World Cup and the Olympics or the lack of sanitation and education in more deprived urban areas. In São Paulo, protesters began massing in Largo da Batata, an important intersection, before fanning out to the city’s main avenues and the state government’s palace. There were minor skirmishes with police. In Rio de Janeiro, protesters marched towards the state assembly and a small group set fire to a car before police officers responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. In the capital, Brasília, protesters managed to reach the roof of the National Congress building and held their ground before negotiating with police and agreeing to leave. Speaking on Tuesday morning, President Dilma Rousseff said “Brazil awakens stronger. The grandeur of last night’s protests demonstrate the energy of our democracy. These citizens want more and have the right to expect more. We are now facing new challenges”.

Greek Broadcaster ERT Reopens After Court Victory

Greek public broadcaster ERT was given legal permission to remain on air by a Greek court while it is restructured six days after Prime Minister Antonis Samaras ordered it to be shut down as a way to save money. “The court decision is essentially in line with what we’ve said: no one has the right to shut down national radio and television and turn screens black”, said Fotis Kouvelis, head of the Democratic Left party, a member of the governing coalition. An official from the ruling New Democracy said the ruling only affirmed the government’s understanding that ERT should be shut and restructured. ERT workers, who had kept broadcasting over the internet in defiance of government orders, applauded the court’s ruling. “I’ve been here seven nights and this is the first time I’ve seen people smile”, said Eleni Hrona, a reporter.

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