President Ghani and Khalilzad discuss peace process

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KABUL: President Ashraf Ghani and US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad met on Sunday and discussed a range of issues around the peace process, the Presidential Palace said in a statement on Monday.

According to the statement members of the Peace Consultative Board, a negotiating delegation, some politicians, representatives of political parties, a number of scholars, members of civil society, youth, women, representatives of the private sector, MPs, and high-ranking government officials also attended the meeting.

In recent days, key issues have been discussed about the peace process and more action is needed in order to achieve lasting peace, Ghani said at the meeting.

Ghani acknowledged the US’s assistance and the strong relationship the two governments shared. He said this was based on shared interests and the common goal for peace.

The president said government has agreed on a new framework with Khalilzad and in context with this information will be shared and consultations will be ongoing. Actions will be taken based on this framework, he added.

“We want the Taliban to clarify their relationship with Pakistan and (we want) Pakistan (clarify) its relationship with the Taliban – and explain what this is based on; (and what is) the Taliban’s connection with terrorist networks and their connection with economic crimes,” Ghani said.

Meanwhile Khalilzad said that with this new plan, a clear framework has emerged and through this, they are pursuing the peace process.

He said the US’s goal, along with Afghanistan, is to increase the efforts of diplomatic channels to establish lasting peace in Afghanistan – in order to maintain the interests of both countries and to reduce the cost of war.

Khalilzad said the US is serious about the Afghan government and the people of Afghanistan being part of the peace process, but they want lasting peace that sees all values and achievements being preserved. He said there should be a point where the 40-year crisis ends.

“Our goal is not to find a way out, but our goal is to provide lasting peace in Afghanistan, and the expansion and strengthening of the two countries’ post-peace relations will be discussed with the Afghan government,” Khalilzad said.

Referring to the importance of the role of regional countries in the peace process, Khalilzad said they are in search of peace and the goal is to end the war, but they are not in favor of just any type of peace.

He said peace is beneficial for the entire region and the government of Afghanistan.

Giving an example of this, he said the recent establishment of ground and air corridors for trade has shown that many opportunities exist that could benefit all countries in the region, including Pakistan.

Khalilzad said although limited progress on the peace process has been made, it is still promising.

Khalilzad further said the US team discussed four topics at the recent meetings with the Taliban. These included Taliban’s links with al-Qaeda, the presence of US troops in the country, direct talks with the Afghan government and a comprehensive, permanent ceasefire.

He said until an agreement has been reached on these four issues, progress will not transpire.

The issue of a ceasefire and dialogue with the Afghan government are the most important issues, Khalilzad added.

According to the statement Khalilzad welcomed Ghani’s initiative to hold a Loya Jirga on Peace.

Ghani also said that in the coming days a women’s advisory Jirga would be convened. Women from 34 provinces will attend.

“I have announced holding of a Consultative Peace Loya Jirga that all the people contribute to this constructive debate. Also, in the coming days, a women’s advisory jirga will be set up and delegates from 34 provinces will attend,” Ghani said.

This comes after the president, who addressed a townhall meeting in Munich on Saturday, said the peace process needs to be citizen-centered not elite-centered.

“Peace needs to be citizen-centered, not elite-centered and because of it the forthcoming election in July is a must,” he said.

Ghani said Afghans are determined to move forward and that there is a need for political inclusion in the peace process.

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