Afghan government threatens to boycott US talks with Taliban: Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said that his government would not join talks between the US and the Taliban and would also halt negotiations with the US on a post-2014 troop pact. ”As long as the peace process is not Afghan-led, the High Peace Council will not participate in the talks in Qatar,” Karzai said in a statement, reports Reuters. Karzai’s objections “appeared to focus on the way the Taliban unveiled the office in Doha, which suggested the Islamic movement would use it as an official embassy or even a base for a government-in-exile”. The Taliban office in Doha sports a banner with the title ‘Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’ – “giving the impression that the Taliban had achieved some level of international political recognition”. Another report cites an unnamed senior Afghan government official who said that “the peace process is a critical priority for us, and we will not allow anyone to abuse this process as a roundabout way of achieving goals they failed to achieve on the battlefield”.
China tells Vietnam it wants peace in South China Sea: Chinese President Xi Jinping struck a conciliatory tone with his visiting Vietnamese counterpart on Wednesday, saying that maintaining peace and stability in the contested South China Sea was vital to both countries. ”China and Vietnam must both act in a spirit of responsibility towards history and their people, put the broader picture of Sino-Vietnam friendship and bilateral development first, make up their minds to … push for a political resolution to the South China Sea issue and prevent it from affecting ties,” said Xi. Global Times says that the ”dispute between China and Vietnam in the South China Sea is expected to top the agenda of Sang’s meeting with Chinese leaders including President Xi Jinping, and a good handling of it is likely to boost the relationship”.
Obama calls for US, Russia to cut nuclear warheads: US President Barack Obama, in a speech on Wednesday in Berlin, offered to reduce the number of deployed nuclear warheads by a third, if the Russian government agrees to a similar cut. According to the Washington Post, “Obama’s proposal, which met with a cool reception in Moscow, came during a much-anticipated speech here that sought to shake Western nations from complacency that he said has taken hold since the end of the Cold War”.
Fareed Zakaria – Obama’s Syria policy is full of contradictions: In a Washington Post op-ed, Fareed Zakaria argues that “the chance that our current efforts in Syria will do enough to achieve even our stated objectives is small. Eventually, the contradictions in U.S. policy will emerge and the Obama administration will face calls for further escalation”. He adds that achieving a democratic Syria where all sects can live in peace ”would require a lot more than the defeat of Assad; it would require an occupation of sorts to ensure the creation of a suitable political system. We attempted just that in Iraq and, despite a massive, decade-long effort that cost trillions of dollars and thousands of lives, Iraq today cannot be described as either genuinely democratic or multiethnic. (The international intervention in the Balkans was also followed by a decades-long occupation, which continues to this day in Bosnia.) Put another way, we want an outcome in Syria that is even more ambitious than the one in Iraq — yet we intend to achieve it through a “no-fly” zone”.