Presidential candidate and incumbent President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani on Sunday addressed his supporters at a gathering in Kabul where he said that only the Afghan government has the authority to negotiate with the Taliban and reach an agreement with the group.
His comments come as a senior government minister said on Saturday that the direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban will take place within the next two weeks. But the US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said the talks will happen after the United States “concludes its own agreement” with the Taliban and that the negotiations “will take place between the Taliban and an inclusive and effective national negotiating team consisting of senior government officials, key political party representatives, civil society and women.
“It should be clear to all that only an elected government can bring peace to this country,” Ghani said.
He said Taliban will “regret” if they failed to use the current opportunity for peace in the country.
He vowed to complete the “uncompleted chapters”, government building, economic independence, and rule of law will be his key plans if he succeeds.
“We have made big steps for peace… We established the National Unity Government to prove to the people that we are not following power, we are trying to serve [the people],” he said.
Ghani said that he demonstrated extreme patience and tolerance to people’s criticism during the past five years.
He mentioned the peace deal with Hizb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar as one of his biggest achievements in peace efforts.
At some point, Ghani’s speech was stopped as one of the participants of the gathering criticized Ghani for not delivering his promises. But she was taken out of the gathering and Ghani continued his speech.
This is the third time that Mr. Ghani is running for president. He was a leading candidate in 2014 presidential election in which he decided to join Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah in the National Unity Government.