Exclusive: Qatar’s FM says concerns growing over Afghanistan’s future – Doha News

The senior Qatari official also called on the international community to hold Israel accountable for killing Shireen Abu Akleh.

Doha News caught up with Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani in New York on Wednesday on the sidelines of the 77th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

The senior Qatari diplomat has been meeting with officials from the international community throughout the week, in the American state as part of the annual event.

With Afghanistan being an important file in Qatar’s foreign policy, Doha News asked Sheikh Mohammed on the latest situation in the country and the international community’s efforts in supporting them.

More than a year since the Taliban takeover of Kabul, the Qatari diplomat noted that to date there is no clarity “on the way forward” for the country.

“We’ve been advising the international community that we need to arrange a blueprint for the way forward—what are the required series of conditions we need from the current leadership in Afghanistan, in exchange of what we can provide as an international community,” Sheikh Mohammed told Doha News.

The Taliban militarily seized power last year following a deadly 20-year invasion by the US and foreign forces, which ended in a chaotic exit. At the time, Qatar carried out history’s largest airlift of people, evacuating at least 80,000 Afghans and foreigners.

After facilitating negotiations between the Taliban and the US, in addition to talks between the former Afghan government and then-militants, Qatar has remained a key platform for dialogue.

Since last year, it has hosted meetings between the Taliban and the international community.

Qatar repeatedly stressed the need to not abandon Afghanistan, given the severity of the humanitarian situation.

During his speech at the UNGA on Tuesday, Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani said abandoning Afghanistan would be counterproductive.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), warned of universal poverty by mid-2022 with 97% of the Afghan population currently living below the poverty line.

Sheikh Mohammed added that Afghanistan will remain a concern in the absence of a clear roadmap for the country’s future.

“We have seen a growing humanitarian crisis over there, an economic crisis, as well as a growing concern on terrorism and terrorist organisations operating from there,” he said.

Afghanistan has witnessed numerous terrorist attacks over the past year, most of which were claimed by the the Islamic State-Khorasan (ISIS-K), killing scores of people in the country.

Last year, Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) recorded 927 civilian deaths and injuries as a result of suicide attacks and bombings.

According to AOAV, Afghanistan was among the worst impacted countries globally by suicide attacks, representing 65% of all casualties recorded. The highest casualties were recorded last year after a deadly bombing at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.

Crowds of people were at the airport at the time waiting to flee the country shortly after the Taliban takeover. ISIS-K claimed the attack, killing 149 civilians and injuring 185 others.

Efforts by the interim Afghan government in combatting terrorism were also brought into question after the US assassinated Al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al Zawahiri, in August. 

The Taliban maintained that its administration had no knowledge of his presence, while the US accused the acting government of violating the 2020 Doha Agreement.

The agreement stipulated that the US will withdraw its forces on the condition that the Taliban halt their support for terrorist groups.

Commenting on the Doha Peace Agreement, Sheikh Tamim called on all parties to preserve and build on the achievements of the accord.

“We have repeatedly stressed the need to protect civilians, respect human and citizen rights in  Afghanistan, including women’s rights, girls’ right to education, and achieve national reconciliation among the factions of the Afghan people,” Amir Tamim told the UNGA.

On Shireen Abu Akleh killing

The ongoing illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine remains a major issue of concern for Qatar and was at the centre of the amir’s latest speech.

“The Palestinian cause is still unresolved,  and  in  light  of  the  failure  to  implement  the  resolutions  of  international  legitimacy and with the persistent change of facts on the ground the settler  occupation  has pursued  a  fait  accompli  policy,” said Sheikh Tamim.

Israel’s crimes in Palestine were further exposed in May this year after the occupying state killed prominent Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Qatar has since called for an investigation into the killing of the veteran Al Jazeera journalist.

Speaking to Doha News, Sheikh Mohammed renewed Qatar’s calls for justice, urging the international community to hold Israel accountable.

“We hope that the international community will hold the Israeli authorities accountable for the crime that they have committed,” said the Qatari foreign minister.

On Tuesday, a joint investigation by Forensic Architecture and Palestinian rights organisation Al-Haq revealed that the killing of Abu Akleh was deliberate.

“We’ve been following the outcome of the investigation and we have seen the reports that came out last night, which are concerning,” said Sheikh Mohammed.

The investigation further countered Israel’s claim that the killing was a mistake, despite one of its occupation forces previously admitting to the crime.

The Zionist state have repeatedly attempted to cover up the crime despite the numerous evidence presented by global news agencies, human rights organisations and testimonies of witnesses who were at the crime scene.

At the time of the killing, Abu Akleh was covering another raid by occupation forces in Jenin, clad in her press vest and helmet, clearly identifying her as a member of the press. 

The Israeli sniper proceeded to shoot Abu Akleh in an area exposed by the helmet she wore at the time and fired more bullets towards her direction after she was shot. Four months on, Israel has not been held to account for the murder.

Israel also attacked Abu Akleh’s funeral, the longest Palestine has ever witnessed. Qatar strongly condemned the attacks, saying they reflect “the brutality of the Israeli apartheid regime and its disregard to all human values.”

Addressing the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos in May, Sheikh Tamim said that Israel denied Abu Akleh a dignified burial.

“[The] Palestinian-American journalist was killed two weeks ago in Palestine, and then robbed, of a dignified-burial. Shireen was covering the suffering, of the Palestinian people for decades, and our hearts, are broken,” said the amir.

Qatar has continuously expressed its staunch refusal to normalise with Israel and condemns its crimes against Palestinians in all international arenas.

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