Afghanistan and 'talking to the enemy'

Our sincere apologies that Sir Menzies Campbell had to withdraw from this event, due to the funeral of Professor Paul Wilkinson, Emeritus Professor of International Relations and Chairman of the Advisory Board of the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence (CSTPV) at the University of St Andrews. We were not advised of this change by the organisers.

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EDINBURGH, August 18, 2011: Senior parliamentarian Sir Menzies Campbell and commentator James Fergusson, whose book 'Taliban' strips away misconceptions and lays bare the contradictions of western policy, are taking part in a public conversation on Friday 19 August, co-sponsored by the beliefs and values think-tank Ekklesia.

The discussion, which runs from 12.30pm - 1.30pm at St John's Church, Princes Street, Edinburgh, is part of the 2011 Festival of Spirituality and Peace, which is hosting 200 events throughout the month in Scotland's capital.

After almost 10 years of British involvement in Afghanistan, it is now official policy to talk to the Taliban. What, then, are the prospects for a settlement? What will it mean for the Afghans, for Britain and for the world? These are among the key issues to be examined.

Sir Menzies Campbell is long-standing Liberal Democrat MP for North East Fife. He has been Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs since 1997.

He has been critical of "disproportionate military action" employed by the Israeli Defence Force in Gaza and Lebanon, suggesting that Israel's tactics exacerbate existing tensions and lead to human rights abuses.

Sir Ming has also been seen as one of Parliament's most measured and authoritative voices in relation to engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11.

During his time as Liberal Democrat leader (2006-7), Campbell suggested that the Bush-Blair relationship was too one-sided, and that the UK government needed to be more mindful of its positive role in international institutions.

James Fergusson started out in journalism in 1989. He has written for many publications since, including the Independent, the European, the Daily Mail and Prospect magazine, covering current affairs in Europe, North Africa, Central Asia, the Far East and the Caribbean.

His specialisation in Afghanistan began in 1996. From 1999 to 2001 he worked in Sarajevo as a press spokesperson for the Office of the High Representative, the body charged with implementing the Dayton Peace Accord that ended Bosnia's civil war in 1995.

Among his books are 'Taliban' and 'A Million Bullets: The Real Story of the British Army in Afghanistan'.

Ekklesia is an independent think-tank that examines the role of religion, belief and values in public life - emphasising the importance of conflict transformation, non-violent civil interventions, negotiation and restorative justice in situations of confrontation and injustice throughout the world.

ENDS

Notes to Editors

1. The full programme for the 2011 Festival of Sprituality and Peace can be found at: http://www.festivalofspirituality.org.uk/

2. More on Sir Menzies Campbell: http://www.mingcampbell.org.uk/

3. More on James Fergusson: http://jamesfergusson.info/

4. News and comment on the Festival of Spirituality and Peace from Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/festivalofspirituality

5. Founded in 2001, Ekklesia examines politics, values and beliefs in a changing world, from a Christian perspective. It has been listed by The Independent newspaper among 20 influential UK think-tanks. According to Alexa/Amazon, it has one of the most-visited religion and politics / current affairs websites in Britain. More: http://ekklesia.co.uk/content/about/about.shtml

6. Media contact: simon.barrow AT ekklesia DOT co DOT uk