US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad, who met with Afghan media in Kabul on Monday, said there is a “moment of opportunity for peace” and that he hopes Afghans will deal with the opportunity “urgently and positively”.
Khalilzad, who held talks with Taliban officials in Qatar last week, for six days, said they made progress on vital issues and agreed “to agreements in principle on a couple of very important issues”.
“I believe for the first time I can say that we have made significant progress,” Khalilzad said but reiterated that “there is a lot more work to be done before we can say we have succeeded in our efforts”.
“This is a moment of opportunity, and I hope Afghans seize this opportunity to put political differences aside and deal with this moment positively and urgently,” Khalilzad said.
“Seize the opportunity. We have the opportunity to avoid future tragedies, to bring the 40 years of war to an end, to a good end, and I urge everyone to rise to the occasion. I am hopeful that they will.”
Khalilzad said he encouraged the Taliban to engage in direct talks with the Afghan government by reiterating that “it is our policy to get to intra-Afghan talks”.
He said he has conveyed the same message to the Afghan government.
The US envoy said “Afghans need to find a solution to this stalemate on intra-Afghan dialogue.
“The key for finding the solutions for Afghan problems is at the hands of Afghans now,” Khalilzad said.
Meanwhile, Khalilzad rejected the “narrative” which says Afghans are not included in the talks by saying that “the Afghan voice is there”.
Khalilzad said that Afghan security and stability is “a big concern” for the US.
“We are working together to get to a comprehensive ceasefire. We are working with the Afghan government, with international partners, to find implementing mechanisms to reach these goals,” he said.
Reports indicate that there have been talks about establishment of an interim government. However, Khalilzad said that the issue has not been discussed with the Taliban.
“I did not discuss an interim government with the Taliban,” Khalilzad mentioned.
According to Khalilzad, US is in hurry for achieving peace in Afghanistan “for the sake of Afghans”.
“We are in a hurry for the sake of the Afghan people to end the violence as soon as we can. We cannot leave the situation in a state of uncertainty. We need to complete the process,” he concluded.
This comes after the US special envoy held talks with President Ashraf Ghani to brief him on progresses in the peace talks with the Taliban.
In a statement issued by the Presidential Palace, Ghani’s office said Khalilzad quashed rumors of talks around the future structure of Afghanistan’s system with the Taliban and that there was no truth in reports of an interim government.
Talks Gather Momentum
In light of Khalilzad’s report back, Ghani on Monday addressed the nation in a televised message and called on the Taliban to engage in direct talks with government.
Ghani also assured the people that their rights will not be compromised in the name of peace and that the country’s sovereignty will be upheld.
He said the Taliban has two choices at the moment - to either stand with the people of Afghanistan or be used as a tool by other countries.
Ghani said concerted efforts were being carried out for peace but at the same time government was also working hard to develop the country.
He said government was committed to ending the 40-year-old war and said that this was the wish of all Afghans.
On the issue of foreign troops in the country, he said no country wants this indefinitely but that currently, Afghanistan needs these forces.
Until now, the Taliban has refused to sit with the Afghan government, which it sees as illegitimate. However, they have held four rounds of talks with the US since last year.
Although he did not give any details about discussions between himself and Khalilzad he appeared to stand firm in his demand that the Taliban engage directly with Kabul.