Afghan President urges Taliban to join peace process

Indo Asian News Service

Kabul, May 4 (IANS) Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani on Thursday called upon Taliban militants to give up fighting and initiate peace talks to boost national reconciliation in the war-battered country.

"I am calling upon Taliban to follow Hekmatyar step and initiate dialogue with government for returning lasting peace in Afghanistan," the President said at a ceremony held at Arg -- the Presidential Palace -- to welcome Hekmatyar.

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, leader of Afghanistan's Hizb-e-Islami, arrived in Kabul ending decades of exile and fighting against the government to strengthen national reconciliation and the peace process in his country.

Hekmatyar's return to Kabul took place following a peace agreement with the Afghan government in September 2016 to join Afghan politics.

Welcoming Hekmatyar's return to Kabul, President Ghani pointed out that all Afghans want peace and the government is determined to spare no efforts to achieve the noble cause of restoring durable peace and security in Afghanistan.

Speaking at the ceremony, Hekmatyar noted that Afghans are fed up with war and are striving to have peace and stability in their country.

Hekmatyar said that he has no preconditions for joining the peace process: "I don't come to join power or having ministry in the government. My sole aim is to see peace in my country and anyone wants peace I would cooperate to end the war," he said.

Hekmatyar described Taliban as "brothers" and called upon them to join the peace process and "test the peace once" to end the excuse for the presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan.

Many Afghans including Hekmatyar believe that the US-led foreign forces under the pretext of the ongoing militancy in Afghanistan justify their presence in the war-torn country.