Sunday, 18 August, 2019

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani sets conditions for Taliban talks

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (L) and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani speak during a press conference at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, May 12, 2015

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has expressed readiness to attend Pakistan-brokered talks with Taliban on the condition that the militant group give up terrorism.

“It is obvious that there are groups of Taliban, not a unified movement,” President Ghani said on Thursday in Kabul.

“The fundamental issue here is the choice: choose peace or terrorism,” he added. “There will be no tolerance for terrorism.”

The president also emphasized that renouncing violence and terror activities have been a major condition for talks with the Taliban.

The remarks come as officials from Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States are due to meet in the Pakistani capital Islamabad on Jan. 11 in an attempt to revive a stalled peace process. The planned talks will be followed by another meeting in Kabul.

Pakistan hosted a first round of peace talks between Taliban and Afghan leaders in July. The talks were halted after the militants belatedly announced the death of their longtime leader Mullah Omar.

There have also been growing differences among Taliban elements over peace talks with the Afghan government, with some vowing to fight for power instead of taking part in negotiations.

The legitimacy of Omar’s former deputy Mullah Akhtar Mansour, who assumed the leadership in July, has been rejected by some Taliban factions. The rival factions have accused Mansour of being beholden to Pakistani spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

The Taliban have been operating in both Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan.

Relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have been tense in recent years over the ongoing militancy. Senior Afghan officials had frequently blamed elements inside the ISI for harboring the Taliban and sponsoring the militancy, while Islamabad blames the Afghan government for giving shelter to the militants on its side of the border.

However, President Ghani has recently moved to strengthen ties with Pakistan – Taliban’s historic backers.

In early December, senior Afghan and Pakistani officials agreed during a meeting in Islamabad to stop accusing each other over Taliban-led violence that has been plaguing both countries.

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