[May 5] Afghan President calls for Consultative Loya Jirga, 16th Asian Cooperation Dialogue Ministerial Meeting, Indonesian President declares plan to relocate capital
PHOTO: RFE/RL. Over 3,200 people participated in the Consultative Loya Jirga on April 29.
Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani stressed achieving viable peace in Afghanistan through dialogue in the consultative Loya Jirga, or traditional grand assembly of elders and chieftains, during the four-day traditional assembly.
About 3,200 delegates across the country have gathered at the four-day traditional assembly to discuss the measures on how to initiate dialogue with the Taliban to find a negotiated settlement to Afghanistan’s prolonged conflict.
The Taliban militants have been fighting over a decade in the past to restore ‘Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’ was ousted by the U.S.-led military coalition invasion in late 2001. They have repeatedly refused to talk with the Afghan government, saying there will be no dialogue with the Kabul administration in the presence of foreign forces in the country.
Recently, the U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistay, Zalmay Khalizad, held series of talks with the Taliban representatives in Doha, Qatar since November 2018, but the last round of talks scheduled for April 19 had been canceled on the ground of introducing a 250-member negotiating team by the Afghan government.
President Ghani in his address categorically stated that all Afghans earnestly want to end the war and restore lasting peace in their country, calling upon the participants of the Jirga to debate freely and prepare a comprehensive guideline for the government to initiate negotiation with the Taliban that could yield the desired results.
The consultative Loya Jirga was opened amid tight security as the government put all security measures in place and declared one-week public holiday for the capital city Kabul in efforts to check any incidents.
Head of the Jirga, Mohammad Omar Daudzai, called upon all the opposition including the Taliban group to attend the Jirga and play their due role in ending the war and to find a way to achieve lasting peace in Afghanistan.
PHOTO: MenaFN. Senior officials of the Asian Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) member states met on April 30, 2019 for the 16th ACD Ministerial Meeting on May 1, 2019 held under the theme, “Partners in Progress”.
The ACD was launched in 2001 as a regional policy discussion platform, which is aimed at fostering mutual trust and inclusive cooperation among its members. It has 34 member countries, and its first meeting was held in Thailand in 2002 with the participation of 18 Asian founding countries.
The Doha Declaration that was adopted noted the importance of balance and its contribution to economic stability and overall development in promoting dialogue, mutual respect, understanding, and harmony.
It stressed the importance of regional cooperation as a key mechanism for accelerating the achievement of the three pillars of sustainable development, which include social and economic development and environmental protection, as well as the stability of the Asian region with its vast and varied natural and human sources, rich historical heritage, and economic and social potential.
The meeting referred to the six agreed common pillars of ACD cooperation areas among the member states, emphasizing the commitment of countries to translate the ACD vision into concrete actions. The meeting also called for strengthening regional cooperation, including all programs and initiatives aimed at facilitating and expanding regional trade, increasing investment, and promoting infrastructure development.
The final document also reaffirmed the decision to recognize June 18 as the day of the Asian Cooperative Dialogue, and welcomed Palestine’s request to join the ACD.
Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkey, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam attended the Dialogue.
PHOTO: Reuters. Jakarta’s Welcome Statute fountain at night.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo has affirmed relocation of the capital city from Jakarta to a place outside Java in a bid to fairly distribute population, which is now mainly concentrated on the key economic island of Java.
The president's decision was made in a cabinet meeting, picked from three options comprised of forming a special district in Jakarta, opening a city in a neighboring province of Banten and establishing a new capital city outside Java. "The president opted for the third option," Indonesian Development Planning Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro said on the sidelines of the meeting.
There has been no definite area for the new capital city discussed in the meeting, the minister said, adding that cabinet ministers would intensify discussions to finalize the capital relocation plan.
Prior to the meeting, Widodo stressed the importance to fairly distribute the population to islands outside Java, which already host 57% of the nation's population.
"Kalimantan hosts six percent of population, while Sulawesi only seven percent. Maluku and Papua are only inhabited by three percent of the nation's population. Do you want to add more people in Java which is already packed by 57 percent of the total population?" the president asked.
Bambang also said that the new capital should sit in the middle of the nation's territory, has minimum risk to disasters and be close to the coast line to represent the nation's character as a maritime country.
The planned new capital city would be built at an area of up to 40,000 hectares, capable of accommodating at least 1.5 million people. The presidential office, legislative buildings, police and military headquarters will be built there. The shift will take five to ten years, and among the options under consideration, the development plan would cost an estimated 466 trillion rupiah (33 billion USD).
President Joko Widodo told the cabinet that the relocation was designed to jump-start the economic engine in the country’s more outlying regions. “We must plan a vision for national development,” the President said.
PHOTO: Reuters. Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn (left) with the new queen, General Suthida Vajiralongkorn Na Ayudhya (right)
The king of Thailand has married the deputy head of his personal security detail, and given her the title of queen, a royal statement said. The surprise announcement comes before his elaborate coronation ceremonies begin on Saturday, when his position is consecrated.
King Maha Vajiralongkorn, 66, became the constitutional monarch after the death of his much-loved father in 2016. He has been married and divorced three times before and has seven children.
The royal statement said that King Vajiralongkorn “has decided to promote General Suthida Vajiralongkorn Na Ayudhya, his royal consort, to become Queen Suthida and she will hold royal title and status as part of the royal family”.
Queen Suthida is King Vajiralongkorn's long-term partner and has been seen with him in public for many years, though their relationship has never before been officially acknowledged.
In 2014 Vajiralongkorn appointed Suthida Tidjai, a former flight attendant for Thai Airways, as the deputy commander of his bodyguard unit. He made her a full general in the army in December 2016.
The previous king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, ruled for 70 years, making him the longest-reigning monarch in the world when he died in 2016.
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