Mohammad Nabi Ayoubi, (2nd R), Peer Mohammad Rohani, (3rd R), Khalifa Naween, (3rd L) Dr. Abdul Shakoor Majoor, (2nd L) attend the international Ulema conference for peace and security in Afghanistan in Jeddah on 10 July 2018. Photo: AFPMore than 100 Muslim scholars from around the world meeting Wednesday in the Saudi holy city of Mecca issued an urgent appeal for peace in Afghanistan as they ended a two-day conference.”The solution to the cause of the Muslim Afghani must particularly go through mutual understanding and direct peaceful negotiations,” read the closing declaration.”Reconciling between battling Muslims is one of the greatest and most honoured acts of worship,” it said.The international gathering, which focused on prospects for peace in Afghanistan, was sponsored by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, based in nearby Jeddah.Yousef al-Othaimeen, the head of the 57-member pan-Islamic organisation, ended the meeting by urging a ceasefire for Afghanistan.”The OIC calls on all parties to observe a truce, respect a ceasefire and enter into direct negotiations,” he told reporters at the close of the conference.The scholars were received on Wednesday by Saudi King Salman, who expressed his country’s committment to a peaceful resolution in Afghanistan, according to state news agency SPA.The Taliban ignored an invitation from the OIC to attend the Mecca conference, Saudi daily Asharq al-Awsat reported Wednesday.Thus far, the Taliban has not responded to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s offers for dialogue, instead demanding to sit down with the United States, which has dismissed this proposal.Attacks occur on a near-daily basis in Afghanistan, where the US toppled the Taliban from power 17 years ago. On Wednesday, an unclaimed attack on an education department facility in eastern Afghanistan left at least 11 people dead.A recent ceasefire between Afghan security forces and the Taliban during the Islamic holiday Eid had raised hopes that an end to hostilities in the war-weary country was possible.But the Taliban refused the government’s request to extend their three-day ceasefire, launching attacks that have seen scores killed or injured.
Myanmar Foreign Secretary Myint Thu speaks to journalists during his visit at a Rohingya refugee camp in Cox`s Bazar on 31 October 2018. Photo: AFPA top Myanmar official said Wednesday that his country would take back the first group of 2,000 Rohingya refugees from camps in Bangladesh in November despite widespread doubts over the proposal.Officials from the two countries announced on Tuesday that some of the 720,000 Muslim Rohingya who fled a deadly military clampdown in the Buddhist-majority country last year would start returning next month.Myanmar foreign secretary Myint Thu visited the camps in Cox’s Bazar on Wednesday to discuss the repatriations with refugees.Most repeated demands that they be given Myanmar nationality with full rights before they return.Thu said Myanmar has verified 5,000 names on a list of 8,032 Rohingya that Bangladesh authorities sent in February.“From that 5,000, the first batch will be about 2,000 people. And then a second batch will follow. So in mid-November we will receive the first batch,” Thu told reporters.Bangladesh officials said a new list of 24,342 Rohingya names was handed over in talks this week.But Rohingya representatives expressed strong doubts about going back despite the announcement.“We would rather die in the camp in Bangladesh. We will not return without any guarantee of citizenship or fully restored rights,” Abdul Hakim, one refugee from Myanmar’s Rakhine state, told AFP.The United Nations, aid groups and even Bangladesh authorities have said any repatriation must be voluntary.Oxfam spokesperson Rachael Reilly said the refugees “want to see justice served and an end to the violence and discrimination that have caused this crisis”.“It is deeply concerning that Rohingya people may be sent back to Myanmar to face the same persecution they fled,” she said.The 720,000 joined about 300,000 who fled earlier violence in Myanmar, where the Rohingya are refused citizenship and rights. Many brought harrowing tales of rape, murder and burning of villages.Investigators have said senior Myanmar military officials should be prosecuted for genocide, but Myanmar has rejected the calls, insisting it only targeted militants.The two neighbours first announced a large-scale repatriation plan in November 2017. But it has failed to advance, with each government blaming the other.