KABUL: President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani officially opened the second Kabul Process meeting in capital on Wednesday, calling for truthful and sustainable peace deal with conciliatory Taliban.
President Ghani spoke of his administration’s desire for peace negotiations with the militant group, however Taliban have recently offered to launch talks with the United States.
President Ghani said the peace process, and a ceasefire must be agreed with Taliban, calling on Pakistan to initiate government to government talks. “We will be ready to start talks with Pakistan and forget the past and start a new chapter.”
In a way, the Trump administration ruled out direct negotiations, something sought by the insurgent outfit in an open letter to the American people and lawmakers.
“We certainly saw this letter and are aware of it. Any peace talks with Afghanistan have to be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned. That has long been our policy,” the State Department spokesperson said.
Heather Nauert told reporters at her daily news conference: “The Taliban, unfortunately, don’t seem ready at this point to sit down and have conversations about peace talks.”
Delivering his remarks at Kabul Process meeting, President Ghani sent a strong message to the Taliban, saying peace was in their hands. He called on the group to accept the offer and join the peace process to save the country from ongoing crisis.
The Afghan president also announced that government would provide passports to Taliban members and their families as well as would issue visas, open an office for them – even in Kabul – and will also work to remove sanctions against Taliban leaders.
“If they promise shunning the insurgency, Taliban prisoners may be freed and their names struck off from international blacklists. Former fighters and refugees could be reintegrated and provided with job opportunities,” the president said.
President Ghani thanked meeting’s participants for their support over peace in Afghanistan, saying the threats were increasing and the enemies of Afghanistan were transnational criminals.
He went on to say the Afghan government and the international community have analyzed the scale and scope of the threat and drafted numerous resolutions and agreements to address the threat, but consensus was still needed to take coordinated action among states to counter the threat.
“Your presence here is a visible reminder that we are an international community united not only by shared threats, but shared interests and shared opportunities,” the president noted.
President Ghani also thanked Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Turkey and other countries who are cooperating in economic projects with Afghanistan. “Our economic cooperation with Russia and China is also increasing,” he said.
Contrary to the caricature of the land of “endless conflict”, Afghanistan’s history was one of long periods of peace and prosperity, punctuated by foreign invasions and subsequent rebuilding, the president remarked.
Every Afghan, regardless of the group to which he/she belonged, felt equal to the other, a sense rooted in their past, as every major city had served as a capital of an empire or a state, the president explained.
“Our sense of justice in derived from our Islamic faith, culture and civilization. As a 99.9% Muslim country, our faith has always united us in the face of the adversities and allowed us to overcome the seemingly impossible.”
In the past, he continued, Afghanistan was believed to be an isolated and landlocked country that would remain reliant on others forever. Hundreds of thousands of tourists traveled in complete safety from Iran on the great trail to Pakistan, India and Nepal, he recalled.
During Pakistan’s wars of 1965 and 1971, he said, the king chose peace over conflict. “We’ve not threatened our neighbors, nor allowed others to use our country to threaten the stability of others.”
Great regional successes, such as the TAPI pipeline that was inaugurated in Herat last week, proved the leadership role Afghanistan was playing in regional and global prosperity and stability, the president maintained.
“Fortunately, the location of Afghanistan signifies the importance of the country as a key for regional prosperity and also provides country-wide opportunities for people that will strengthen social fabrics of Afghan society.”
“Luckily, the implementation of new regional projects is transforming Afghanistan’s location, which was viewed as a challenge, into a golden opportunity,” the president noted.
The Kabul Process meeting on mapping out a plan for peace in Afghanistan started in Kabul on Wednesday and attended by representatives from 25 countries and organizations including the UN and NATO.