Kerry encourages talks with Pakistanis

U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry will host talks between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and senior Pakistani officials in Brussels on Wednesday, officials said, with the aim of calming tension over border disputes and a flagging peace process.

The meeting is part of a series of on-and-off talks between Afghanistan and Pakistan at the behest of the United States, a senior State Department official said Monday, confirming that Kerry had offered to host the meeting.

Afghanistan has grown frustrated with Pakistan over efforts to pursue a peace process involving the Taliban, suggesting that Islamabad is intent on keeping Afghanistan unstable until after foreign combat forces have left at the end of 2014.

Kerry said the meeting would discuss the handover of security responsibility to Afghan forces this year, a move intended to allow for the end of NATO-led combat operations.

U.S. officials are hopeful that Kerry, who has a good relationship with Karzai, can bring the parties back to the table and make constructive progress on an issue that has long-term security implications for Washington.

— Reuters

Agreement reached on Gaza flotilla raid

In a step toward restoring ties, former allies Turkey and Israel agreed Monday on the “methods and principles” of devising compensation payments for the victims of a deadly 2010 Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, Turkey’s deputy prime minister said.

Eight Turks and one Turkish American were killed and several other pro-Palestinian activists were wounded when Israeli commandos stormed the ship Mavi Marmara while stopping an international flotilla trying to breach a blockade of the Gaza Strip. The incident, which wounded seven Israeli soldiers, increased tensions between the once-close allies and led to a break in relations.

Last month, President Obama brokered a rapprochement between the two countries, both of which Washington regards as strategic partners in the turbulent Middle East. Israel offered an apology and compensation for the May 2010 raid, and the Turkish and Israeli leaders agreed to try to normalize their relations.

In Ankara, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said the two sides had agreed on “the methods and principles, the basics and parameters” for working out compensation, but said the amount had not yet been determined. He said the delegations could hold a second or third meeting.

— Associated Press

Japanese nationalists near
disputed islands:
A flotilla of boats carrying more than 80 Japanese nationalists arrived Tuesday in waters near disputed islands at the center of tensions between China and Japan. The boats were shadowed by at least 10 Japanese Coast Guard vessels, while three Chinese government surveillance ships also moved near the East China Sea islands, known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China. Also in the region, South Korea’s foreign minister canceled a trip to Tokyo and the Chinese government blasted Japan for a lack of contrition over its past after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made an offering to a shrine seen as a symbol of Japan’s former militarism.

Scores killed in northeastern
Fighting between soldiers and Islamist extremists in northeastern Nigeria killed at least 187 people, the worst single incident of violence in the region since an insurgency there began three years ago, an aid agency said Monday. Nigeria’s military blocked access for relief officials to enter the town of Baga, which sits along the shores of Lake Chad, said Nwakpa O. Nwakpa of the Red Cross. Seventy-seven people are receiving medical care there in the ruins of a town where about 300 homes burned, he said. Residents blame angry soldiers for burning areas where they knew civilians were hiding.

11 civilians seized by Taliban in Afghanistan: The Taliban took 11 civilians prisoner, including eight Turks and a Russian, after their cargo helicopter made an emergency landing in eastern Afghanistan, officials said Monday, in the first large scale capture of foreigners there in nearly six years. Security forces dispatched to the remote area retreated after engaging in firefights with the insurgents but failing to secure the area or retrieve the captives.

— From news services