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Afghan government to convene council of elders for consultations on peace process

File photo of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. Photograph:( Reuters )

Agencia EFE Kabul, Afghanistan Feb 12, 2019, 06.41 AM (IST)

The president of Afghanistan on Monday announced his government would convene the so-called Grand Consultative Assembly of Elders in March to seek its advice on the peace process with the Taliban insurgency.

During a gathering of tribal elders in Kabul, the Afghan capital, President Ashraf Ghani asked the secretary of the High Peace Council, Omar Daudzai, to convene the consultative Loya Jirga assembly at the end of Hoot (the month in the Afghan Hijri solar calendar roughly equivalent to March).

"The government and all groups of society will be supporting you in these efforts to convene the grand assembly, a gathering that will host all elites and influential figures of the country," he told Daudzai, who in recent months joined Ghani’s peace efforts.

The Loya Jirga will provide consultations to the government and will define which values cannot be compromised and the matters that should be discussed in the peace process. 

"In the gathering, the world will hear the true voice of the nation. The Jirga will define the values that should not be compromised over and it will define the price of peace and war," Ghani said, calling the consultations with the assembly "another big step" to unite all of Afghans' peace efforts under one umbrella. 

"This is a united home, and we should act as a single united voice," he added.

Ghani said his government had the "true intention and will" for peace and was ready to hold talks on prisoners with the Taliban.

He added that if the parties to the conflict were to reach a peace agreement, he was willing to sign the document in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.

Although the Taliban have not held direct talks with the government so far, Ghani said his administration had already started to draft plans for the development of post-war Afghanistan. 

Ghani also promised to amend the current electoral laws so as to guarantee transparency in the upcoming presidential elections scheduled for next July.

"A fair and transparent presidential election is the demand of the nation," he said.

Ghani's announcement comes at a time when the United States and the Taliban have held several rounds of talks over the last three months in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, which have seen "significant progress on vital issues" such as foreign troop withdrawal and counter-terrorism efforts, according to the US negotiators.

The two sides are expected to meet again at the end of February in Doha for further negotiations.

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'In the gathering, the world will hear the true voice of the nation. The Jirga will define the values that should not be compromised over and it will define the price of peace and war,' Ghani said.