x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

UN terror blacklist move may ease peace talks in Afghanistan

The UN is considering creating separate terrorism blacklists for al Qa¿eda and the Taliban,which would symbolically recognise their different agendas and could spur possible Afghan peace talks.

KABUL // The United Nations said yesterday it is considering creating separate terrorism blacklists for al Qa'eda and the Taliban, a political gesture that could spur possible Afghan peace talks.

Peter Wittig, permanent representative of Germany to the United Nations and chairman of the UN committee overseeing the sanctions, said the panel will decide in about two weeks whether to divide the list.

The US and Afghan governments have said that they are willing to reconcile with Taliban members who renounce violence, embrace the Afghan constitution and sever ties with al Qa'eda.

Making two separate lists would symbolically sever the Taliban from al Qa'eda, recognising their different agendas.

"It would highlight the significance of the political efforts that are ongoing in Afghanistan," Mr Wittig told a group of reporters at a briefing in the Afghan capital.

Al Qa'eda is focused on worldwide jihad against the West and establishment of a religious state in the Muslim world, while Afghan Taliban militants have focused on their own country and have shown little interest in attacking targets outside Afghanistan.

"The links are there, but they don't justify putting them in the same basket," said Mr Wittig, whose country favours the split.

"There would be an element of Afghan ownership because there would be an obligation to consult with the Afghan government on requests concerning changes to the list. So they would get a more prominent role."

The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, has been making peace overtures to members of the Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan for five years and sheltered al Qa'eda before being driven out of power in the US-led invasion in late 2001.

The Taliban have long demanded removal from the sanctions list to help promote reconciliation.

The current UN sanctions list for both al Qa'eda and the Taliban includes about 450 people, entities and organisations, including roughly 140 with links to the Taliban.

The Afghan government already has asked a UN panel to take about 50 Taliban figures off the sanctions list, which keeps them subject to an asset freeze and travel ban. The committee will rule on many of these requests next week.

Some nations, however, are still undecided about whether to embrace the idea of splitting the list. All committee members must vote in favour for it to be approved.

It is unclear, for instance, whether it will be approved by Russia, which has expressed a reluctance in the past to approve requests to delist Taliban members.

"Those who would argue that the split is not justified would say there still are links between the two groups - that they should be treated together," he said.

Afghan authorities are talking to council members to persuade them to back the idea.