Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has offered to recognise the Taliban as a legitimate political group as part of a proposed process he said could lead to talks aimed at ending more than 16 years of war.
Ghani’s offer on Wednesday, made at the start of an international conference aimed at creating a platform for peace talks, adds to a series of signals from both the Western-backed government and the Taliban suggesting a greater willingness to consider dialogue.
Ghani proposed a ceasefire and prisoner release as part of a range of options, including new elections involving the armed group, and a constitutional review as part of a pact with the Taliban.
“We are making this offer without preconditions in order to lead to a peace agreement,” Ghani said in opening remarks at the conference attended by officials from about 25 countries involved in the so-called Kabul Process.
“The Taliban are expected to give input to the peace-making process, the goal of which is to draw the Taliban, as an organisation, to peace talks,” he said.
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The comments represented a significant shift for Ghani, who in the past has regularly called the Taliban “terrorists” and “rebels”, although he has also offered to talk with parts of the movement that accepted peace.
The Taliban, fighting to return to power after its 2001 ouster by US-led forces, has offered to begin talks with the United States but have so far refused direct discussions with Kabul. It was unclear whether the group would be prepared to shift its stance, despite growing international pressure.
“I think that what they are saying is that the door is still open. They have shown a softness in their stand,” said political analyst Habib Wadark.
“Not just the Taliban but the Afghan government and its international counterparts and I think it is a perfect time not for a peace deal to be struck at this stage but probably a temporary ceasefire, which can then pave the path of a sustainable peace in the long term,” he told Al Jazeera.
Ghani, who recently helped launch the latest stage in a major regional gas pipeline from Turkmenistan, said the momentum for peace was building from neighbouring countries that increasingly saw the necessity of a stable Afghanistan.
“The Taliban show awareness of these contextual shifts and seem to be engaged in a debate on the implications of acts of violence for their future,” he said.
source : aljazeera