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#Coronavirus global response: EU Humanitarian Air Bridge to #Afghanistan and further support

EU Reporter Correspondent

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As part of the EU's global coronavirus response, an EU Humanitarian Air Bridge flight will depart on 15June from Maastricht, Netherlands, to Kabul, Afghanistan. The flight will deliver 100 tonnes of life-saving materials to supply EU-funded humanitarian partners. The flight is fully EU funded and is part of ongoing Air Bridge flights to critical areas of the world.

The EU is also providing a new aid package of €39 million to boost coronavirus response as well as to help victims of war, forced displacement and natural disasters in Afghanistan.

Crisis Management Commissioner Janez Lenarčič said: "At this difficult time, the EU continues to stand by the most vulnerable in Afghanistan. The coronavirus pandemic poses huge logistical challenges for the humanitarian community, while the needs remain high in critical areas. With this air bridge, the EU is delivering vital assistance such as food, nutrition, water, shelter to ensure aid reaches as many people as possible and to help support the people of Afghanistan.”

EU humanitarian projects in Afghanistan focus on providing emergency health care, shelter, food assistance, access to clean water and sanitation facilities, as well as various protection services supporting women and children. The full press release is available online.

Afghanistan

Kazakhstan participated in the first Meeting of the Special Representatives of Central Asia and the European Union for Afghanistan

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The Special Representatives of the European Union and Central Asian countries on Afghanistan held the first meeting by VC. The event was dedicated to an enhanced regional co-operation on Afghanistan, including the development of common initiatives to support the Peace process. The meeting was attended by Ambassador Peter Burian, EU Special Representative for Central Asia, Ambassador Roland Kobia, EU Special Envoy for Afghanistan, as well as special representatives of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and the Deputy Foreign minister of Turkmenistan.

Talgat Kaliyev, special representative of the president of the Republic of Kazakhstan for Afghanistan, outlined in his speech Kazakhstan’s continuous support to international efforts to stabilize the situation in Afghanistan, providing a year-to-year, comprehensive assistance to this country.

Stressing the importance of expanded regional cooperation for the reconstruction of Afghanistan, Ambassador Kaliyev highly appreciated the assistance of European partners in this direction.

Following the meeting, the participants adopted a Joint Statement where they reaffirmed their support for the international initiatives to resolve the situation in Afghanistan, as well as a joint commitment to broader cooperation in order to contribute to the peace process.

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Ukraine and Afghanistan in spotlight as Blinken Visits Brussels

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (pictured) headed to Brussels today (13 April) to meet with European and NATO allies on a range of issues, including Russia’s buildup of forces along the border with Ukraine and coalition operations in Afghanistan.

The visit comes three weeks after Blinken was in Brussels for a summit with his counterparts from NATO member states. Blinken spoke of the priority for the United States to focus on strengthening ties with allies during the previous meeting.

“Glad to be heading back to Brussels. The United States is committed to rebuilding U.S. alliances, particularly with our NATO Allies,” Blinken tweeted on Monday (12 April). “We remain steadfast in our support for NATO as the essential forum for Transatlantic security.”

Blinken’s schedule for today includes talks with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

Russia’s recent movement of troops to the border area has raised concerns in the United States and elsewhere.

Blinken spoke with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg about the situation Monday and said there was mutual agreement that “Russia must end its dangerous military buildup and ongoing aggression along Ukraine’s borders.”

Philip Reeker, the US acting assistant secretary for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, told reporters in previewing Blinken’s meetings that NATO talks about Ukraine would bring calls for Russia to show restraint and refrain from “escalatory actions.”

Joining Blinken in Brussels is US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

Another major topic of discussion will be the situation in Afghanistan just weeks before a May 1 deadline set an agreement between the administration of former US President Donald Trump and the Taliban for the withdrawal of the remaining 2,500 U.S forces from the country.

Reeker said those talks would be an opportunity to follow up on discussions about Afghanistan from the ministerial meetings last month. Blinken said during the March talks that the United States wanted to “listen and consult” with NATO allies, while pledging to “leave together” when the time is right.

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Russian foreign minister visits Pakistan in search of Afghan peace

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Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov (pictured), met his Pakistani counterpart in Islamabad on Wednesday (7 April) for talks on a troubled peace process in Afghanistan, where both countries have long histories of involvement, writes Charlotte Greenfield.

It was the first time a Russian foreign minister had visited Pakistan in nine years and comes at a sensitive time for Afghanistan with peace talks making little headway and a deadline looming for the United States to withdraw its forces.

“(Pakistan and Russia) share convergent positions on several issues ... including peace and stability in Afghanistan,” Pakistan’s foreign minister, Shah Mahmoud Qureshi, said on Twitter after their meeting.

The two ministers also discussed economic relations, energy and counter-terrorism cooperation, and progress on a major gas pipeline project.

Lavrov was also due to meet Prime Minister Imran Khan, the Pakistan foreign ministry said in a statement.

In the 1980s, Pakistan and the United States were the main supporters of the Islamist fighters who battled occupying Soviet forces.

Now, Russia is concerned about Afghan instability spilling over into central Asia as the United States seeks to extricate itself from a war in Afghanistan against the Islamist Taliban, who Pakistan has for years been accused of supporting.

Pakistan denies that.

Russia hosted an international conference on Afghanistan in Moscow last month at which the participants, including the United States, China and Pakistan, issued a statement calling on the warring Afghan sides to reach a peace deal and curb violence.

“A common concern is the situation in Afghanistan,” Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Wednesday on Lavrov’s visit to Pakistan.

“We look forward to an early finding of a constructive solution in order to end the civil war in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan through agreements on the formation of an inclusive government with the participation of the Taliban movement.”

The United States signed an agreement with the Taliban last year allowing it to withdraw its forces in exchange for a Taliban guarantee to prevent international terrorism.

But fighting between the US-backed Afghan government and the Taliban still rages.

The United States is pushing for an interim Afghan government between the two sides as a May 1 deadline approaches for it to withdraw its forces under the pact.

President Joe Biden has said that date will be hard to meet despite Taliban threats of more violence if it is not.

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