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Ghani calls for serious Taliban talks, vows to restore peace

By Farhad Naibkhel

KABUL: After marathon negotiations between the insurgent Taliban and the United States in Qatar last week, President Ashraf Ghani on Monday called on the Taliban to shun violence and engage in direct peace talks with his government.

This comes a day after the US special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad returning from Doha briefed President Ghani on Sunday evening on developments of six-day negotiations with the Taliban.

He tweeted: “Briefed President Ashraf Ghani last night on the progress we’ve made. Peace is America’s highest priority in Afghanistan, a goal we believe all Afghans share.”

On a national television broadcast, President Ghani promised the nation that he will restore peace and will make sure that chaos will not ensue when any peace is struck.

Ghani called on the Taliban to renege on wicked designs of foreign intruders and embrace the longstanding pleas of Afghans to start ‘serious talks’ with the government.

“We have strong will to open doors to peace, and the US effort in that regard is part of our peace process, which is Afghan-led and Afghan-owned,” said President Ghani.

“The Taliban have two options; either reconcile with the grand nation of Afghanistan or continue their hostility at the mercy of intruding outsiders,” the president asserted.

“Continuation of Taliban war and violence will impede establishment of a powerful central government, which is exactly what our enemies want.”

“Afghans are killed in droves in the ongoing war and they are tired of this war. They don’t want the Sangeen massacre to be repeated,” maintained the president, “Afghans don’t want long-term presence of foreign forces in the country. But this foreign military presence is need-based. And we will decide the number of foreign troops to stay in Afghanistan. We will try to reduce them to zero through a viable strategy,” he said.

The insurgents and Washington are said to be working out on a plan for the US to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan and for the Taliban to cease hostility in bid to end the 17-year-old Afghan war.

Meanwhile, US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has said that no discussion had taken place with the Taliban about prospects of political structure in Afghanistan. He ruled out the proposition of interim government. “It is not my authority and responsibility, my authority is only to pave the ground for an intra-Afghan dialogue.”

He said the Taliban and Washington discussed ceasefire and that he emphasized on durable peace which can be achieved only through intra-Afghan talks.

Khalilzad said the Taliban demanded withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, but US has not reached to any agreement with them in the aspect. If any decision is to be made, it will be discussed in detail in coordination with the government of Afghanistan.

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