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Afghan officials to meet Taliban ahead of US troop withdrawal agreement

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Afghan officials are set to meet Taliban members in Qatar on Friday ahead of a crucial agreement between the U.S. and Taliban negotiators that will set the timeline for the withdrawal of American troops who have been fighting in Afghanistan for 18 years, Reuters reported.

A six-member delegation of junior ministers and a senior security official will hold preliminary talks with some Taliban leaders in Qatar’s capital, Doha, two senior government officials in Kabul said, adding that the meeting was a crucial confidence-building mechanism between the warring sides.

A senior official in Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s office said Ghani was reluctant to send a delegation to meet the Taliban before the U.S.-Taliban deal is formalized.

“But he now realises that a meeting is crucial at this juncture. This golden opportunity cannot be lost,” said the official, requesting anonymity.

Shepherding the Afghan government and Taliban towards intra-Afghan negotiations has been one of the biggest headaches for U.S. negotiators, according to western diplomats in Kabul and Doha.

The seven-day “Reduction in Violence” (RIV) pact that took effect on Feb. 22 and is set to culminate in the signing of an agreement between top U.S. and Taliban negotiators on Saturday in Doha, the location of the political headquarters of the hardline insurgent group.

The RIV period has passed off largely successfully, and the United States and Taliban look set to sign the agreement to establish a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops in exchange for guarantees from the Taliban not to allow militant groups such as al-Qaeda to operate in Afghanistan.

The U.S.-Taliban agreement, if inked on Saturday, would begin a phased withdrawal of American and coalition forces and would also require the Taliban to initiate a formal dialogue with the Afghan government and other political and civil society groups on a permanent nationwide ceasefire and power-sharing in post-war Afghanistan.

The Taliban now hold sway over half the country, and are at their most powerful since the U.S. invasion in 2001

Senior Taliban commanders in Doha and Afghanistan said once the deal is signed the group will release 1,000 Afghan prisoners, mostly security personnel and government employees who are in their custody in different parts of the country.

In exchange, the Taliban expects the Afghan government to release their 5,000 fighters.

“We will not join the intra-Afghan dialogue if the U.S. and Afghan did not honor their commitment to release our prisoners,” said a senior Taliban commander in Doha.

Afghan broadcaster Tolo News said U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg were expected in Kabul ahead of the announcement of the declaration in Doha.

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Azerbaijan

Iran death toll from coronavirus reaches 210

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At least 210 Covid-19 patients have died in Iran, sources within the country's health care system have told BBC Persian.

This figure, as of Thursday evening, is way above the official figure of 34.

The official figure for infected people is at 388 but many have challenged official figures. Most victims are from the capital, Tehran, and the city of Qom where the Iranian outbreak started.

Iran's government has defended its response to the spread of the virus and denied it is withholding information about the number of people affected. News.Az

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Azerbaijan

Azerbaijani President allocates AZN14m for improvement of water supply in Aghdam

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Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has signed an Order to provide funding to improve water supply for irrigation and drinking in 18 residential areas in Aghdam district.

Under the presidential Order, Azerbaijan Irrigation and Water Management Open Joint Stock Company is allocated AZN1.4 million for digging 20 sub-artesian wells to improve irrigation of cultivable lands and supply of drinking water for 24,740 people in 18 residential areas in the district.

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Azerbaijan

TABIB Coronavirus doesnt have deadly effect on children younger than 10

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“There are 7 varieties of coronavirus. From these, 4 are the diseases causing nasal discharge in people and take their course with such easy fly symptoms as a sore throat. Other varieties of this disease which were detected in the recent past and are spreading now have caused epidemics”, said Vasif Aliyev, head of TABIB’s Working Group, member of Operative Task Force under Cabinet of Ministers of Azerbaijan, APA reports.

He said there is no standard, specific, antivirus treatment method for any of these varieties: “Only the symptomatic treatment is applied to them. There is neither vaccine nor antiviral medicinal preparation for these diseases. Just some medicinal preparations are used for treatment, but their efficiency hasn’t been completely proved”.

V. Aliyev noted that according to the statistics, this virus doesn’t have deadly effect on children younger than 10: “Mainly the elderly people, the people suffering from a chronic disease – diabetes, chronic kidney, heart and liver failure, as well as the people have undergone organ transplantation, and the people suffering from oncology diseases bear this disease more heavily due to their weak body resistance. Some patients can recover in two weeks, but others can suffer more heavily, at the same time there is a likeliness of the repeated contraction of the virus. Similarly to the repeated contraction of the flu virus, the coronavirus can also be caught repeatedly. This is a case for all viruses”.

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