Now is the "right moment" for peace in Afghanistan, President Ashraf Ghani said Wednesday as he once more called on the Taliban to negotiate with his government.
The Taliban have steadfastly refused to discuss peace with Ghani, whom they consider a US stooge heading an illegitimate regime.
But a series of talks in recent days seems to have shifted the needle in Afghanistan's war, with the US and the Taliban claiming to have made significant progress during a summit in Doha.
Additionally, some members of Ghani's circle attended overlapping talks in the Qatari capital with the Taliban, though only in what they called a "personal capacity".
"In the past 18 years the time was not right for peace, for a realistic peace. Today is the right moment," Ghani said at an EU anti-corruption conference being held in Kabul.
"If we lose this opportunity then the responsibility (for the loss) is big."
Ghani stressed that the Taliban and his government must negotiate.
"We are the two warring sides," he said.
Following days of talks last week with US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, the Taliban met Afghan representatives at an "intra-Afghan dialogue".
The US has insisted on such talks and the two Afghan sides issued a joint resolution pledging a "roadmap for peace" for the war-torn country.
Stakes are high for the talks which follow a week of US-Taliban negotiations with both sides eyeing a resolution to the bloody 18-year conflict.
Their meeting came during a marathon multi-country tour by Khalilzad, who is to visit Qatar — the usual venue for talks with the Taliban.
Ghani said the message of the five-day gathering was clear: “Afghans want peace” and offered a ceasefire, though he stressed it would not be unilateral. In the statement on Friday, the Taliban rejected a ceasefire, saying attacks will continue during Ramadan but said “fighters are very careful of civilians during any operation.”
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