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Coronavirus mires Afghanistan peace talks

AT News

KABUL: The deadly coronavirus has overshadowed negotiations expected to be held between President Ashraf Ghani’s administration and the Taliban to end the longstanding war, NATO’s Senior Civilian Representative for Afghanistan, Stefano Pontecorvo said.

“A number of members of government and Taliban negotiating teams have been infected with the virus,” the Italian diplomat said Saturday. Pontecorvo was recently appointed by NATO to Afghanistan as replacement to his British predecessor Sir Nicholas Kay.

However, he assured that the infection would not change the structure of the two sides’ negotiating teams.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Development Program says that Afghanistan is facing a serious challenge due to the virus pandemic that threatens peace process.

It warned against the overwhelming of the “country’s” healthcare system and Afghanistan would experience a 17 per cent downturn by 2023.

The government has also confirmed that the pandemics has slowed down the peace efforts, with Najia Anwar, spokeswoman of the state ministry for peace telling the Foreign Policy saying that Taliban’s leader was probably infected with the virus and would have likely died.

But Taliban’s Spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, rejected the allegations, saying that “no member of the leadership has been infected with the Corona virus.”

The Foreign Policy had earlier said that Mullah Yaqoob, the group’s second in command and son of Taliban’s founder and first leader Mullah Omar overtook leadership of the militants after Mullah Haibatullah, the leader of Taliban fell ill.

The government negotiating team was not safe of the disease either. Sources close to Abdullah Abdullah, head of thee reconciliation council said that some of the members of negotiating team were infected with the virus.

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