Thursday, September 23, 2021

No rush in deciding stand on Taliban govt, says Saifuddin

He says police are still awaiting credible information on reports that two Malaysians believed to be fighting alongside IS-K have been detained by the Taliban.

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Malaysia is taking a very cautious approach in deciding its official stand on the Taliban government in Afghanistan, says Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah.

He said the government is closely following all events in the country, particularly in Kabul.

“We have received reports from various sectors and we will soon be making our stand.

“As far as we are concerned, as of today, we are still making our assessment on the situation in Afghanistan,” he told a press conference on his first day in office today.

Taliban fighters entered Kabul on Aug 15 and took control of Afghanistan for the first time in almost 20 years as US troops withdrew from the country. Following the Taliban’s capture of the Afghan capital, president Mohammad Ashraf Ghani left the country.

Asked about reports of two Malaysians believed to be fighting alongside “IS-K” and detained by the Taliban, Saifuddin said he had spoken to Inspector-General of Police Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani regarding the matter.

“The police are still awaiting credible information on the two who were reported as Malaysians.

“Nonetheless, there are two Malaysians who are there as volunteers for a humanitarian organisation, so it’s not an issue for now,” he said.

Britain’s The Times had quoted Taliban’s CID chief Saifullah Mohammed as saying that six fighters – four Afghans and two Malaysians – were detained following a gun battle on the western side of Kabul on the night of Aug 26. However, the report did not identify the Malaysians.

On Asean’s approach to dealing with crisis in Myanmar, Saifuddin said Malaysia was confident that Asean special envoy to Myanmar Erywan Mohd Yusof would be able to play his role.

“I will be meeting him as soon as possible,” he said, adding that this was a continuity of what his predecessor Hishammuddin Hussein had been doing.

Saifuddin said he was also hopeful that some positive results will be achieved from the five-point consensus mandated by the Asean leaders.

Since the military coup on Feb 1 that ousted the democratically elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar has been facing civil unrest. The political problem in the country has been compounded by the surge in Covid-19 infections.

On the South China Sea, Saifuddin said he was happy with the developments relating to negotiations on the code of conduct (COC) compared to when he was previously in charge of foreign affairs.

“When I left previously, we were struggling on a single text. In foreign policy work, the single text is quite a milestone because only then it is easier for all parties to sit down at the negotiation table and discuss matters.

“Yes, we want to make sure that the COC will materialise,” he said.

On Malaysia’s relationship with Singapore, which saw thorny issues relating to the water agreement and the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail during his previous stint, Saifuddin said the bilateral ties had always been good.

Saifuddin said his relations with his Singaporean counterpart, Vivian Balakrishnan, were very warm and that he was looking forward to enhancing and strengthening the matters that both countries have agreed on.

“We consider ourselves good friends. So I would say, there wouldn’t be a problem between me and Vivian.

“The two prime ministers spoke to each other as soon as Ismail Sabri Yaakob was appointed. I was made to understand that it was a very warm and fruitful discussion between the two,” Saifuddin said.

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