Geneva, Nov 29 (IANS) A top Afghan security official said that a conference that ended here Wednesday has put a renewed focus on a peace process owned and led by those in the country, and now it is up to the Taliban to come forward and play a constructive role.
“We see the stars lining up for peace at his point,” said Hamdullah Mohib, national security adviser of Afghanistan, at a press conference here after the two-day Conference on Afghanistan in Geneva, adding that “the ball is in the Taliban’s court”, Xinhua news agency reported.
The Geneva Conference on Afghanistan, co-hosted by Afghanistan and the UN, was attended by delegations from 61 countries and 35 international organisations, representatives of civil society, the private sector and the media.
It issued a communique at the end saying, “Participants call on all concerned to seize this opportunity for an Afghan-owned and led peace process as the only viable path to satisfy the citizens’ desire for an end to conflict, sustained and broad-based economic growth, and a more prosperous tomorrow.”
UN Secretary-General’s special representative Tadamichi Yamamoto said the gathering was likely the first international meeting on Afghanistan when issues of “peace have been taken up with such weight”.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Wednesday called for a political settlement in Afghanistan as his Swiss counterpart Ignazio Cassis offered Switzerland to play a peace-broking role between warring factions.
In a conference speech, Lavrov said, “We believe that the Afghan crisis can be settled only by political means,” adding: “A broad intra-Afghan dialogue with the participation of the government, the Taliban movement, and the whole spectrum of political and social forces is needed.”
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said in a speech his government has formed a negotiating team to work on a peace agreement with the Taliban.
“We seek a peace agreement in which the Afghan Taliban would be included in a democratic and inclusive society,” Ghani told the conference.
Swiss Foreign Minister Cassis also spoke on the second day of the conference to assess progress since a pledging conference was held in Brussels in 2016 and to measure results against the $15.2 billion committed by the international community for Afghanistan in 2016.
“After 17 years of war that produced only losers, the time has come for dialogue. The time has come for a political solution. Switzerland is ready to host any round of talks if requested,” said Cassis.
Tens of thousands of civilians have been killed and wounded in Afghanistan since the war started in 2001.