Afghan’s ‘Loya Jirga’ ends with call for urgent ceasefire

KABUL: A five-day summit on peace in Afghanistan ended on Friday with a call for an urgent ceasefire and a schedule for a proposed withdrawal of foreign troops from the war-torn country.

The Loya Jirga, or grand assembly, set out its recommendations and urged the government and the Taliban to try to find common ground and discuss possible conditions for a peace deal for “an immediate and permanent ceasefire with the arrival of Ramadan”, reports Efe news.

Asking the Taliban to shun violence, the council called on the warring groups to begin “intra-Afghan talks”.

President Ashraf Ghani inaugurated the meeting on Monday. It saw about 3,200 ethnic, religious and tribal representatives and politicians from across the country gather in the capital city under heavy security cover.

At the end of the five-day consultations, the participants issued a 23-article resolution to Ghani and called on the government, the Taliban, the international community and regional countries to “respect the recommendations of the peace jirga”.

They said the constitution and the current political structure of the government should be “maintained and protected” and, if necessary, amendments be brought in only through legal ways.

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The resolution asked the government “to pave the way to bring the Taliban political office from Qatar to Afghanistan”.

Among the key demands, was a timetable to be drawn up in consultation with all related sides for what the participants said was a “responsible withdrawal” of foreign troops from Afghanistan.

Taliban leaders have so far refused to negotiate with the government, calling it a puppet of the US. The militant group has been insisting on the withdrawal of foreign forces before talks with the government in Kabul could begin.

The jirga comes as the Taliban, who were not at the talks, are this week separately meeting in Doha with US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.

The jirga, one of the several such events held over the past 18 years to make national decisions, comes as Taliban leaders and officials from the US, led by envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, have held several rounds of peace talks in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates amid opposition from Ghani’s government, which insists on having a central role in the process.

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Ghani, in his closing remarks said: “I heard your resolution. This would be the roadmap and action programme of the government in peace talks.”

The President said on the recommendation of the jirga and in respect of the month of Ramadan, the government would release 175 Taliban prisoners from Afghan jails “where they were imprisoned for years”.

“I call on Taliban to send your representatives to an Afghan city so we hand the prisoners over to you,” he added.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s war rages on, with thousands of civilians and fighters being killed each year.

US forces continue to train Afghan partners on the ground and strike the Taliban from the air, in a bid to push the war — now in its 18th year — to a political settlement.

With agencies inputs

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