MOSCOW, October 31 (RIA Novosti) — New Afghan president Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai has called for the Taliban to join peace talks aimed at establishing stability in the country.
“Peace is our highest priority. We invite the political opposition, particularly the Taliban, to join and enter Afghan dialogue, and ask all of our international partners to support an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process,” said the President in a speech made in Beijing on Friday.
Ghani is on a four-day state visit to China, in conjunction with the country’s hosting of the Istanbul Process on Afghanistan. This is the fourth annual organization of the conference, and represents greater engagement from surrounding countries as US and NATO forces complete their withdrawal by the end of the year.
However, the Taliban is unhappy with agreements signed last month by the Afghan government with the US and NATO, which allow them to conduct counter-terrorism operations in the country, and maintain a small presence to train members of the Afghan National Army.
This month the US Express Tribune reported that a Taliban spokesman told them: “Ashraf Ghani has no powers and he has completely surrendered to the US. Talks with such an administration will be useless because he cannot take any decision without their approval and we do not want to waste our time.”
The Tribune reported differences in approach between Ghani and the Taliban, with the former requesting immediate intra-Afghan peace dialogue, while the Taliban first want to resolve issues with the US. “We would definitely enter into intra-Afghan dialogue but at a later stage,” they told the paper, detailing demands for the release of Taliban leaders from Guantanamo and a removal of their leaders from a UN sanctions list, as well as the complete end of NATO presence in the country.
Fourteen Asian and Middle Eastern countries are a part of the “Heart of Asia” peace process on Afghanistan, and the conferences have previously been held in Istanbul, Kabul and Almaty. China’s hosting this year comes as it makes increasing efforts to aid peace in the country. Last week Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying told a press conference the visit is intended to “showcase the Chinese government's support for Afghanistan's smooth transition and peaceful reconstruction and promote further development of bilateral strategic cooperative partnership.”
Reuters reported last week that China has promised 1.5 billion yuan ($245 million) in aid to Afghanistan until 2017, and to help train 3,000 Afghan professionals until 2019. The Chinese also sought assurances from Ghani for support in the fight against “East Turkistan Islamic Movement” radicals in its Xinjiang province, who have committed a series of terrorist attacks in the past year.