Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, May 23rd, 2019

Afghans Need to Form Unified Team for Peace: Khalilzad

Afghans Need to  Form Unified Team for Peace: Khalilzad

KABUL -  Zalmay Khalilzad calls on Afghans to put aside their differences and unite for peace.
In an exclusive interview with TOLOnews on Monday, US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad said the integration of a strong and unified negotiating team under Afghan government’s umbrella is needed for achieving a breakthrough in the strides for peace in Afghanistan, but rejected rumors that the talks had hit a deadlock.
“There are difficulties, but we have agreed with the Taliban to meet again on the 25th of February in Doha. We agreed in principle to talk in details and with more authenticity about two topics to find whether there is the possibility to make more progress on the issue of terrorism and the issue of forces,” Khalilzad said. “But I want to reassure the people of Afghanistan that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. The two points that you mentioned are largely related to the Afghans. The first issue is that when the ceasefire will be announced, I want a broad-based ceasefire to be announced as soon as possible. Secondly, there is a need for discussions and consultations among Afghans including the [Afghan] government to start soon.”
In response to a question about progress on the intra-Afghan dialogue and ceasefire, Khalilzad said he did not have direct contacts with the Taliban since his last meeting with them in Doha, Qatar, last month, and that the Taliban delegation said at the time that they will talk about these issues with their leadership.
“We have not been in direct contacts with the Taliban regarding these issues [ceasefire and intra-Afghan dialogue] since our last meeting,” Khalilzad said. “In the previous meeting, they [Taliban] said they do not have the authority to talk about these issues which include a ceasefire and intra-Afghan dialogue and they asked for time to talk about it with their leadership. Let’s see what they will have to say about it in the next meeting, so far I don’t have any information about their decision.”
The Taliban has persistently rejected the call to engage in direct talks with the Afghan government.
Khalilzad called on Afghans to put aside their differences and unite for peace. However, he blamed the group and their supporters for the ongoing war and bloodshed in the country.
“The Taliban and their supporters so far have refused to talk with the legitimate Afghan government and reach on an agreement for finding a solution to the problem if the Taliban are really serious about peace. The Taliban say that they want peace and I am confident that yes the Taliban wants peace. But the issue is what kind of peace? Because it needs unity, consensus, and agreement between Afghans, inside and outside the government, including the Taliban. It can be counted as progress if the Afghans come together and reach on a political agreement on a roadmap for ending the war,” said the envoy, when asked whether the Taliban is serious about peace.
This comes a week after President Ashraf Ghani called for a grand consultative Jirga, a traditional assembly, on the peace process in the country. Ghani said the Jirga will be convened within a month.
Khalilzad, who is trying to facilitate direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban – said there is a need for a “strong national team” under the Afghan government’s umbrella.
“We need a team where government’s leadership is respected,” Khalilzad said. “At the same time, the participation of other political elements is also a must.”
The US envoy said his message to the Afghan government and Afghan elders is that “the time has reached that they sit together and agree on a team” in order to prevent a repeat of another Moscow talks.
Khalilzad said Khalilzad the US is not against “a positive role” of Russia and other countries in the Afghan peace process, adding that it would be better if a national team, representing Afghanistan, will attend a possible next round of talks in Moscow.
According to him, the Moscow talks will be a positive step if they result in forming a "national team" -- for peace.
Khalilzad said that he had productive meetings with President Ghani and politicians in Kabul, but he refused to give the details of the meeting as mentioned that the details were “private”. 
The US envoy said that he is holding talks with four circles which include the Afghan government, the Afghan politicians, the regional countries, and the Taliban. (Tolo news)