Ghani 'prepared' for ceasefire with Taliban after Loya Jirga calls for truce
KABUL -- President Ashraf Ghani said he is conditionally "prepared" to implement a ceasefire with the Taliban following a call by delegates at a consultative Loya Jirga for an immediate and permanent truce.
Discussions at the jirga in Kabul ended Thursday, but on Friday (May 3) participants released a statement and Ghani gave a speech. The jirga saw about 3,200 religious and tribal leaders, politicians and representatives come together with the aim of making a breakthrough in the war in Afghanistan, now in its 18th year.
"The government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban movement should declare and implement an immediate and permanent ceasefire," delegates said in their declaration at the end of the Loya Jirga.
The ceasefire should start at the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan, which is set to begin next Monday (May 6), said the delegates.
Ghani Friday told jirga delegates he was "prepared to implement the fair and legitimate demand" for a ceasefire but stressed it "can't be one-sided".
"If the Taliban are fully ready for a ceasefire, then we can talk about the technical details," Ghani said in the speech.
The president also promised to release 175 Taliban prisoners as a gesture of "goodwill".
The Taliban last year announced a three-day ceasefire at the end of Ramadan after Ghani declared a unilateral truce for eight days earlier in the month.
It was the first formal nationwide ceasefire since 2001 and was met with unprecedented scenes of reconciliation and jubilation across the country.
This week's rare summit, the first of its kind since 2013, saw emotions riding high as attendees shared tears, recriminations and at least one fistfight as they revisited the horrors of Afghanistan's recent past and contemplated peace with their longtime foe.
The end of the jirga came amid separate talks between the Taliban and US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Doha, Qatar. The militant group so far has refused to speak with Ghani's government.
The talks focus on a potential deal that would see the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan in return for the Taliban guaranteeing terrorist groups could no longer operate in the country.
Khalilzad said on Twitter that he had told the Taliban "that the Afghan people, who are their brothers & sisters, want this war to end. It is time to put down arms, stop the violence, & embrace peace".