KABUL -- A power-sharing agreement signed Sunday (May 17) by President Ashraf Ghani and his political rival Abdullah Abdullah ends a months-long feud and renews hope for a peace deal with the Taliban.
The agreement, which sees Abdullah heading peace talks with the Taliban, comes as Afghanistan battles surging militant violence that saw dozens killed in brutal attacks last week.
The United States and NATO welcomed the agreement, with both calling for a renewed push for Afghan-led peace talks.
"Dr. Abdullah will lead the National Reconciliation High Council and members of his team will be included in the cabinet," Ghani spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said on Twitter.
The agreement ensures that Abdullah's group will get 50% of cabinet positions and other provincial governors' posts, Abdullah spokesman Fraidoon Khazon told AFP.
Ghani hailed a "historic day" for Afghanistan, noting that the agreement was reached without any international mediation.
"We will share the burden, and our shoulders, God willing, will be lighter," he said, addressing Abdullah at the signing ceremony broadcast on a state-run television channel.
"In the days ahead, we hope that with unity and co-operation, we will be able to first pave the ground for a ceasefire and then lasting peace," Ghani said.
The deal commits the signatories to forming a "more inclusive, accountable and competent administration", said Abdullah.
"It's meant to ensure a path to peace, improve governance, protect rights, respect laws and values," he said on Twitter after signing the deal.
The agreement commits Ghani to making Abdul Rashid Dostum, his former vice president turned ally of Abdullah, a marshal of the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF).
Dostum is accused of ordering the torture and rape of a political rival in 2016. He denies the allegations.
Allies, Afghans welcome political settlement
The United States, which has been leading negotiations with the Taliban on behalf of the Afghan government, expressed hope that Afghan-led peace talks could now move forward.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Ghani and Abdullah "that the priority for the United States remains a political settlement to end the conflict", his spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.
NATO, which maintains a training mission in Afghanistan, issued a similar message.
"In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and continued Taliban violence against their fellow Afghans, it is more important than ever that all Afghan leaders unite and work towards enduring peace in Afghanistan," NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement.
"We call on the Taliban to live up to their commitments, reduce violence now, take part in intra-Afghan negotiations, and make real compromises for lasting peace and the benefit of all Afghans," he said.
Kabul residents expressed a mixture of hope and scepticism over the deal.
"If they really want to work for the country ... they have to bring genuine peace to the country -- that is the only thing the majority of Afghans want," Rashed Hashemi, an employee at a private company, told AFP.
Pictures released by the presidential palace showed Abdullah and Ghani sitting side by side for the signing ceremony.
Abdullah had previously served as Afghanistan's chief executive under a power-sharing arrangement reached after the disputed presidential election in 2014. He lost that post after Ghani won the election last September.