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Turkish Central Bank reserves top $ 115 billion


Monitoring Desk

ANKARA: The Turkish Central Bank’s total reserves reached $115.29 billion as of the end of January, the bank announced Wednesday.

Official reserve assets rose 7.1 percent, compared to $107.63 billion as of Dec. 31, 2017, according to the bank’s international reserves and foreign currency liquidity report. In January, foreign currency reserves — in convertible foreign currencies — rose to $88.44 billion, a monthly increase of 7.1 percent.

As another sub-item of official reserve assets, gold reserves — including gold deposits and, if appropriate, gold swapped — climbed 7.4 percent last month to reach $25.28 billion, compared to the previous month. At the end of January 2017, the bank’s total reserves were $106.45 billion, including $89.05 billion in foreign currency along with $15.93 billion in gold reserves.

Over the past 10 years, Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey (CBRT) official reserve assets rose nearly 61.5 percent, from $71.4 billion in January 2009 to $115.29 billion in January 2018. In mid-December 2013, the bank’s total reserves saw a historic high of nearly $136 billion, including some $21 billion in gold reserves.

Liability side:

Meanwhile, the bank noted that short-term predetermined net drains of the central government and the CBRT — foreign currency loans, securities, and foreign exchange deposit accounts of residents abroad within the CBRT — climbed 0.8 percent in January from the previous month, realizing at $11.77 billion. Of this amount, $7.6 billion belongs to principal repayments and $4.16 billion to interest repayments, it added. The CBRT report also said contingent short-term net drains on foreign currency rose 8.5 percent to $66.85 billion last month, compared to December 2017.

According to the bank’s definition, contingent short-term net drains on foreign currency consist of “collateral guarantees on debt due within one year” and “other contingent liabilities,” which are the banking sector’s required reserves in blocked accounts in foreign currency and gold, and letters of credit items on the CBRT’s balance sheet. AA


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UK: May rejects customs union for Northern Ireland

Monitoring Desk

LONDON: A draft withdrawal agreement published by the EU “would undermine the UK common market, if implemented,” British Prime Minister Theresa May said Wednesday.

“It would threaten the constitutional integrity of the UK by creating a customs and regulatory border down the Irish Sea,” she said, speaking at a weekly question session in the House of Commons.

“No UK prime minister could ever agree to it,” she said. The just-published draft text, which aims to put the deal struck between the sides in December into a legally binding form, suggested that Northern Ireland would be considered part of the EU’s customs territory after the UK left the bloc.

If implemented and Northern Ireland remained in the Customs Union, it would mean the creation of a trade border within the UK and the necessity of checks on shipped goods.

The EU draft said: “A common regulatory area comprising the Union and the United Kingdom in respect of Northern Ireland is hereby established”.

“The common regulatory area shall constitute an area without internal borders in which the free movement of goods is ensured and North-South cooperation protected,” it said. The EU proposal suggests a “common regulatory area” on the island of Ireland after Brexit, if any other solutions are found.

Text ‘no surprise’:

On the issue of the whole UK staying in the Customs Union, May said this “would be a betrayal of the British people.” May also said the December agreement reached with the EU included assurances for EU nationals in the UK as her government promised since the start of the Brexit negotiations.

She said she wants to deliver on the wishes of the British people to get control of their borders, laws, and money. She also reiterated that her government is committed to having no hard border on the island of Ireland.

The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier told a press conference in Brussels that “if Brexit negotiations are to be a success, we must pick up the pace.”

Barnier called on the UK to come up with alternatives for the border issue, adding that the text was “no surprise” as it is based on what was agreed in December between the sides.

The document contains “concrete and realistic solutions” for the border issue, Barnier said.

Prompted by a question, he denied the EU was trying to undermine the constitutional integrity of the UK

Johnson’s memo:

A leaked memo penned by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to the prime minister has also come under fire, as opposition parties accused the Tory government of being divided and lacking a clear Brexit strategy.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn reminded May that Johnson said recently a hard border in Ireland was unthinkable.

“The foreign secretary’s leaked letter shows he can’t get to grips with one of the most fundamental issues of Brexit,” said Ian Blackford, the leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) in Westminster.

A letter obtained by Sky News from Johnson to May said: “It is wrong to see the task as maintaining ‘no border’ but the aim was to stop the frontier becoming “significantly harder.”

“The government will not accept anything that undermines the constitutional integrity of the UK, or that creates a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland,” David Lidington, the Cabinet Office minister, said, responding to an urgent question on the leaked memo.

May said she would set out her government’s position for a future trade relationship with the UK later this week.

The EU members are expected to discuss the draft withdrawal agreement document at a EU summit next month.

The UK is set to leave the bloc on March 29, 2019. AA

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Ceasefire must guarantee social justice: Abdullah

Monitoring Desk

KABUL: Chief Executive Officer Dr. Abdullah Abdullah says a ceasefire could not bring about peace in the absence of social justice, law enforcement and people’s access to rights.

Abdullah made the remarks at an event at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP) on Tuesday, a statement from the CEO office said on Wednesday.

Experts and students from different countries were gathered at the centre, with some participants asking the CEO about the current situation in Afghanistan, the statement added. He said Afghanistan, faced with attacks from various terrorist groups, had been able to make headway in many areas.

There were no girls’ schools in Afghanistan 17 years ago, he recalled, saying today women actively participated in politics, economic activities, security, media and civil affairs.

Abdullah added Afghanistan was hungry for peace and government officials were struggling for achieving it. However, he stressed peace could not be established only by a ceasefire or an end to war.

The CEO underlined the imperative of social justice, effective law enforcement, access to basic rights and democracy to ensure lasting stability in the country.

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Italy pledges 120m Euros for Afghan security forces

Monitoring Desk

KABUL: Italy’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Alberto Peri has pledged 120 million Euros for Afghan security forces, a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) said on Wednesday.

Peri renewed Rome’s commitment to Afghanistan and discussed bilateral relation and cooperation during a meeting with Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani on the sideline of Kabul Process Conference here.

The Afghan government peace mechanism, international community perspective on Afghan peace process, suspension of support to terrorist groups in the region and bilateral cooperation including Italy’s fresh pledge 120 million Euros were discussed during the meeting, the statement said.

Peri has been heading her country’s delegation in 2nd summit of Kabul Process which kicked off in Kabul Wednesday.

The Afghan foreign minister hailed Italy cooperation with Afghanistan being a friend country and appreciated the uplift projects conducted by Italy in Herat province.


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Herat school teachers want their salaries issued

Monitoring Desk

HERAT CITY: Dozens of school teachers on Wednesday complained their salaries were not paid for the last four months, warning to boycott classes in the new academic year if their problem not resolved.

The teachers gathered in the provincial council, said that Herat exchequer requested the teachers’ initial employment letter in order to pay their salaries.

Khawaja Mohammad Nadir Seddiqi, head of Teachers Association in Herat, told Afghan media that most of the teachers had no employment letter because they have been teaching since 30 years.

“We support transparency in the administration, but the exchequer has requested the initial employment letter from teachers, something that is not available with most of teachers because they were serving their duties since 30 or 40 years and such documents are missed during the past several decades of war,” he said.

Sayed Abdul Wahid Rahmani, one of schoolteacher in Herat said, “Less salary from one side and the government’s new demands from another side is hurting us, teachers did not receive their salaries since the last four months.” Farzana Ahmadi, another teacher said they would not attend classes in the new academic year if their salaries not paid.

Meanwhile, Sayed Khalil Kabarzani, a provincial council member, stressed on solution to teachers problem and said the education would not improve until the problems teachers facing not solved.

However, Khalil Moeed, administrative and finance manager of Herat education department, confirmed the problem and said the teachers’ documents process issue was somewhat resolved with the exchequer office.

But he said that the reason behind delayed salaries was delay of receiving budget from the Ministry of Education.

Pajhwok tried to contact Herat exchequer office for comment on the issue, but failed. But governor’s spokesman, Jailani Farhad, said that the salaries of a number of teachers were still not paid by the ministry and the local administration was closely following the issue.



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Taliban kill six police

Monitoring Desk

KANDAHAR: Gunmen, believed to be Taliban fighters, killed six police and seized numerous others including police and passengers in southern Afghanistan, officials said Wednesday.

The Taliban gunmen stopped vehicles on Kandahar-Uruzgan highway in the Urdu Balagh area and kidnapped 30 passengers, Dost Muhammad Nayab, spokesman of Uruzgan governor, told Afghan media.

He said the kidnapped people whose identity was unclear were shifted to unknown location and their fate was unclear, he said, adding efforts were on to free them.

General Abdul Raziq, police chief neighboring Kandahar province, told AIP that the incident took place in the Surkh Bed area of Kandahar’s Shah Walikot district when Taliban seized 19 people including police and civilians.

Moments before kidnapping the police and civilians, the Taliban attacked a police post in Sabzi Karez area between Uruzgan and Kandahar province, killing six cops and wounding five more, he said.

He said the Taliban suffered casualties but they had no accurate count.

Taking advantage of security forces’ engagement in the clash, General Raziq said, the Taliban wearing Afghan National Army (ANA) uniform plucked 19 passengers from vehicles and shifted them to unknown location.

There was no word by Taliban in this regard. The Taliban often stop vehicles on highways and search vehicles for security men. Mostly they seize the security men or government officials and release civilians.

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Rabbani to neighbours: Help us achieve reconciliation

Monitoring Desk

KABUL: The Afghan government is mandated by citizens to end decades of conflict and violence in the country, Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani said on Wednesday.

“We wish to achieve this goal through a credible political settlement with those armed groups that renounce violence and cut ties with transnational terrorist networks,” he said.

Addressing the second meeting of the Kabul Process, the minister said the forces would continue battling to defeat those choosing violence and bloodshed over reconciliation and peace.

“Genuine success in our quest for peace rests on an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process, which must be strongly supported by our immediate neighbors, our wider region, as well as our international partners,” he said.

In his opening remarks, Rabbani said the delegates would focus on the Afghan government’s vision for peace, regional and international support and the need for adopting a common counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics strategy.

Afghanistan was a multiethnic country, where an all-inclusive national settlement required the highest level of political integrity and altruistic leadership to help all communities see themselves as an integral part of the system.

He stressed the need for a system that provided equal socio-economic and political opportunities to all citizens. While the root-causes of conflict were external, any attempt to impose a system that preferred one community and ignored the rest would be detrimental to social cohesion, he warned.

In the lead-up to the meeting, the government and High Peace Council (HPC) engaged in nationwide consultations with political figures, civil society, the clergy, women and youth to bolster public support for a legitimate peace process.

“We renew our call on our neighbors and international partners to further strengthen our bilateral and multilateral counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics cooperation,” the minister added.

He called the conference a significant opportunity for all to reinvigorate international consensus on joint efforts to defeat terrorist and criminal networks with no distinction.

“This can be achieved best when we adopt a common strategy to address these critical security challenges that confront our nations,” Rabbani concluded.


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Voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees resumes

Monitoring Desk

KABUL: The UN refugee agency’s voluntary repatriation programme for registered Afghan refugees would resume on Thursday 01 March 2018 after the winter break, a statement from the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Wednesday.

Based upon the agreement between the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan and UNHCR, the voluntary repatriation operation had been suspended for the winter period from 1 December 2017 until 28 February 2018.

UNHCR would facilitate repatriation from the voluntary repatriation centres at Azakhel, Nowshera in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baleli, Quetta in Balochistan, the statement said.

Pakistan continued to host 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees who are holding Proof of Registration (PoR) cards. Around 4.3 million Afghan refugees have returned to Afghanistan under the UNHCR-facilitated voluntary repatriation programme since 2002.

The Proof of Registration card allow Afghan refugees the right to temporary legal stay in Pakistan.

“Every Afghan refugee has the right to return to Afghanistan as long as his or her decision is well-informed and voluntary,” said Ruvendrini Menikdiwela, UNHCR Representative in Pakistan, adding that UNHCR continues to advocate that the repatriation of Afghan refugees needs to be voluntary, safe, gradual and carried out in a dignified manner.

Ms. Menikdiwela said UNHCR acknowledged the people and government of Pakistan for hosting Afghan refugees for nearly four decades.

Ms. Menikdiwela called upon the international community to provide support to Afghan refugees and their host communities in Pakistan, as well as provide targeted development assistance in Afghanistan to support the sustainable reintegration of returnees to avoid further displacements.

UNHCR provides approximately USD200 to every registered individual upon their return to Afghanistan. Returnees receive the cash grant at UNHCR encashment centres in Afghanistan.

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PTI faces severe internal rifts in Dir

F.P. Report

TIMERGARA: Internal rift among workers and local leadership of the Pakistan Tehrek Insaf again surfaced in Lower Dir after a strong group led by former district president Bashir Khan rejected the party intra-election held at Timergara the other day.

More than 400 PTI workers from different areas of Lower Dir had elected Ali Shah Mishwani as district president during a meeting held here the other day. Sources privy to that meeting told that dozens of the workers had objected the election terming it unconstitutional, illegal and partial.

On Tuesday another meeting of the PTI workers was held at the hujra of Bashir Khan in Gumbir village which was attended by more than 500 party workers. The PTI former district president and former candidate for NA 34 Bashir Khan, Dr Sarbiland Khan, Haji Inayat Khan, prof ® Ahmad Hussain and others while speaking on the occasion rejected the intra-party election.

They said both the conveners and the leadership had violated party discipline and its constitution. The speakers alleged that some of the party workers wished to pave way for getting tickets. They said the internal rifts among the PTI workers had inflicted huge loss on the party in Dir and that was why it was being confronted with frequent defeats in the district. The speakers said that district and tehsil cabinets would be elected through workers’ consensus and impartial election. They said they would work hard to unite all the disgruntled workers so that the party could achieve its goal.

Sources in the party said it was difficult to bring the disunited workers on a single page. They said the rivals were not bearing each others in Dir. “The party has so many groups in the district,” said a PTI worker, adding the leadership had also kept silence on the matter.


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Two shot dead in Lakki Marwat

Ghulam Mursalin Marwat

LAKKI MARWAT: Two people were shot dead in Zangikhel and Takhtikhel localities, said police on Wednesday. Police said that the first shooting incident took place in the area limits of Lakki Marwat police station where body of a teenage boy Zakirullah was found in the fields near Zangikhel village. They said that the deceased Zakirullah had left home on Feb 23 to offer Jumma prayer but he did not return.

“The relatives did not find any clue despite hunting for him in the village and surrounding localities for three days”, they maintained. Police quoted Zaheerullah father of deceased as stating in FIR that they (relatives) were informed about a dead body dumped in the fields near village. “A bullet riddled body of Zakirullah was lying in the fields when we reached there”, Zaheerullah told police, saying that he and his deceased son had no enmity with anyone.

Police said that the villagers shifted the body to government city hospital where it was handed over to relatives for burial after completion of medico legal procedure. They added that investigation was started into murder incident after registration of case against unknown killers under section 302 (premeditated murder).

Separately, a man was killed when rivals attacked him in the fields near Shagai village bordering frontier tribal region. Police said that Dur Rehman and his brother Hanifullah residents of Takhtikhel were working in the fields when their rivals including Umar Qayaz and Zubair armed with weapons suddenly came there and sprayed them with bullets.

Consequently, Dur Rehman died instantly while Hanifullah narrowly escaped”, they maintained and quoted Hanifullah as saying that a blood feud between his family and killers had been patched up by area elders in the recent months. Police said that they arrested Umar Qayaz with a weapon used in the crime and intensified efforts to capture his accomplice after registration of case in Shaheed Asmatullah Khan Khattak police station of Naurang town.