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Executive Summary for August 6th

We review the latest peace and security issues, including U.S. diplomats meeting with the Taliban for rare face-to-face talks, the U.N. announcing the first Yemen peace talks in two years and South Sudan’s warring parties signing a final peace deal to end the conflict.

Published on Aug. 6, 2018 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

U.S. Diplomats Meet with Taliban for Rare Face-to-Face Talks

U.S. diplomats met face-to-face with representatives of the Taliban in Qatar’s capital last month, after President Donald Trump ordered direct negotiations to restart the country’s dormant peace process, the New York Times reported.

The rare meeting marks a change in U.S. policy, which has previously held that talks with the Taliban should be carried out solely by the Afghan government, without direct involvement from Washington. It also a concession to the Taliban, which has previously demanded direct negotiations with the U.S. as a precondition to peace talks.

Citing two Taliban officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity, NYT said that the Doha meeting involved Alice Wells, the state department’s senior South Asia diplomat, several members of the Taliban political commission, in addition to a number of unidentified U.S. diplomats.

Talks focused on the peace process, one Taliban official told NYT, adding that he expects good results as well as more meetings with U.S. officials in the future.

The U.S. state department and the Afghan government did not confirm reports of direct negotiations between the U.S. and the Taliban.

The meeting comes nearly two months after the Taliban and the Afghan government brokered a three-day cease-fire on the occasion of the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday. The truce marked the first nationwide lull in hostilities in 17 years.

U.N. Envoy Announces First Yemen Peace Talks in Two Years

The United Nation’s special envoy to Yemen said Thursday that he is planning to invite the country’s warring parties to peace talks in Geneva on September 6, Voice of America reported.

The U.N.-sponsored negotiations, if they go ahead, would mark the first time in two years that the Saudi-backed forces and Houthi rebels convene for talks over a potential peace deal. The last attempt to negotiate an end to the conflict broke down in 2016, when Houthi rebels rejected a U.N.-backed peace agreement.

Speaking to the U.N. Security Council, Martin Griffiths said that next month’s talks “will provide the opportunity for the parties, among other things, to discuss the framework for negotiations, relevant confidence-building measures and specific plans for moving the process forward.”

According to the Guardian, the negotiations may also “avert a Saudi and UAE-led offensive on the strategic port of Hodeidah, which is held by Houthis and used by aid agencies to distribute food, medicine and oil through most of the country.”

Meanwhile, Houthi rebels said July 31 that they would halt attacks in the Red Sea for a period of two weeks in support of efforts to broker a political solution to the conflict, according to Reuters.

Leaders of South Sudan’s Warring Parties Reach Final Cease-fire Agreement

The leaders of South Sudan’s warring parties signed a final cease-fire and power-sharing agreement on Sunday with the aim of ending the country’s five-year-long conflict, Reuters reported.

“I call on everyone as a leader of South Sudan that this agreement which we have signed today should be the end of the war and the conflict in our country,” President Salva Kiir, was quoted as saying after the meeting.

The agreement between Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar, which was signed in neighboring Sudan’s capital Khartoum, “expresses the commitment of all parties to a cease-fire,” the foreign minister of Sudan, Al-Dirdiri Mohamed said on Sudan state television.

For his part, Machar said that “there is no option but peace … we have to focus after this stage on implementing the agreement that if we don’t implement, we will all be failures.”

Under the agreement, the warring parties will have three months to form a transitional 35-member government. Ministers from the current government will have 20 seats, nine will go to Machar’s SPLM-IO rebel group and the remaining six portfolios will go to other opposition groups. The agreement also reinstates Machar as one of five vice presidents of the country.

A similar arrangement fell apart in July 2016.

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