The United States has talked with the Taliban, but not negotiated, President Ashraf Ghani said on Tuesday.
The remarks come as US diplomats have met with Taliban representatives twice in Qatar so far this year, but has not released details.
The last meeting happened last month involved newly appointed US special envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad. A New York Times report said that President Ghani was blindsided by the meeting as he heard of it only through news reports.
“This government has owned the peace process, it is leading it,” Ghani said at a press conference with visiting NATO Secretary General in Kabul. “The efforts of Ambassador Khalilzad are supported, the distinction that is the US has always talked, but not negotiated,”
Ghani said that he was forming an advisory council of people from all 34 provinces of the country so we can prepare for a real discussion. “We hope that the day of beginning formal negotiations would not be far.”
“We support the engagement of our international colleagues,” Ghani said adding the model of cooperation regionally is what happened in Uzbekistan, where the conference was co-chaired.”
Meanwhile, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that the potential for peace is greater now than it has been in many years, adding it must be inclusive.
“I call on the Taliban and other insurgents to stop killing their fellow Afghans,” Stoltenberg said. “The Taliban must understand that continuing to fight is pointless and counterproductive.”
Referring to security situation, Stoltenberg said that the situation remains serious.
“No one underestimates the scale of the challenge and the situation remains serious,” Stoltenberg said. “Afghan soldiers and police are on the front lines of this conflict, many are killed or wounded every week.”
Stoltenberg also called on regional countries to play a constructive role in Afghanistan and deny safe havens to extremist groups.
When asked about release of Taliban’s senior commander, Mullah Baradar, Ghani hailed it as a “small step.”
The president said that Baradar had been arrested at a time when he was seeking peace. He called on Pakistan to support peace, and act on ending war in Afghanistan.
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