Ghani unveils plan for peace talks with Taliban



President Ashraf Ghani (centre), Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani (left) and Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla (right) take part in the second Kabul Process conference in Kabul February 28. [Afghan Presidential Palace]

KABUL -- Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Wednesday (February 28) unveiled a plan to open peace talks with the Taliban, including eventually recognising them as a political party, days after the militants called for direct negotiations with the United States.

Ghani disclosed the framework at the second round of the Kabul Process peace conference held Wednesday in Kabul with the goal of bringing peace to Afghanistan. Representatives from 25 countries took part, discussing counter-terrorism and conflict resolution strategies.

He called for a truce, after which the Taliban could become a political party and contest elections.

"A cease-fire should be held, the Taliban should be recognised as a political party and a trust-building process should be initiated," Ghani said, in remarks similar to past offers.

In return, Ghani said the Taliban must recognise the government and the constitution, a perennial sticking point in past attempts to open talks.

Decision up to the Taliban

"Now the decision is in your hands; accept peace... and let's bring stability to this country," he said.

On Monday (February 26), the Taliban said they were prepared to enter direct talks with the United States to find a "peaceful solution" to more than 16 years of war.

"There are some people among the Taliban who believe that they will have to negotiate with the Afghan government," said Pakistani journalist and Taliban analyst Rahimullah Yusufzai.

The militants have suffered heavy casualties under the new US strategy of increased air strikes and commando raids, he said.

Despite the losses, Yusufzai said the group would continue the insurgency. "They derive their power from their ability to keep fighting," he said.

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