Let’s start a new chapter, Ghani tells Pakistan

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Offers to recognize Taliban as legitimate ‘political party’

Kabul

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Wednesday showed readiness to begin dialogue with Pakistan forgetting the past and starting a new chapter and also declared his readiness to review the constitution and enforce a cease-fire as part of his much-touted peace deal with Taliban to end the Afghan war.
Ghani spoke at the second Kabul Process Conference attended by representatives from more than 20 countries and international organisations.
He also called on government-to-government talks with Pakistan. In a tweet about Wednesday’s conference, Ghani had said: “I will present detailed peace offer to Taliban and Pakistan on behalf of the Afghan people. We wish to march toward a lasting peace in #Afghanistan and in the region!”
But Ghani reiterated his long stance that the group must “respect the law” and “recognize” the national unity government that came to power more than three years ago following a deal brokered by the US.
He offered recognition of Taliban insurgents as a legitimate political group as part of a proposed political process that could lead to talks aimed at ending more than 16-year war.
The offer, 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.
Ashraf Ghani offered security and incentives such as passports to insurgents who join the negotiations. “We will consider the Taliban’s view in the peace talks,” he said.
Ghani said the Afghan government will provide passports and issue visas to Taliban members and their families and open an office for them in Kabul. He said his government would also work to remove sanctions against Taliban leaders.
He said a ceasefire must be agreed on and the Taliban must be declared a political group. “The Afghan government must be accepting and we will also work on the list of freeing Taliban prisoners,” he said.
The president proposed a ceasefire and a release of prisoners. He also said he would be ready to accept a review of the constitution as part of a pact with the Taliban, who have so far refused to accept direct talks with the government in Kabul.
“The government offers peace negotiations to the Taliban without any conditions,” Ghani said in opening remarks to the conference attended by officials from around 25 countries involved in the so-called Kabul Process.
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.
Ghani said a political framework for peace negotiations should be created with a ceasefire and the Taliban recognized as a legitimate political group with an official political office. In return, the movement would have to recognize the Afghan government and respect the rule of law.
In addition, Taliban prisoners could be released and their names removed from international blacklists, while security arrangements could be made for Taliban agreeing to join a process of reconciliation. Former fighters and refugees could be reintegrated and provided with jobs.

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