Afghanistan: Jirga demands permanent ceasefire

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Kabul (Web Desk) A historic “loya jirga” peace summit in Kabul ended Friday with delegates from across Afghanistan demanding an immediate and permanent ceasefire, and President Ashraf Ghani saying he was conditionally prepared to implement the call.

This week’s loya jirga, or grand assembly, saw about 3,200 religious and tribal leaders, politicians and representatives try to find a breakthrough in Afghanistan’s gruelling conflict, which is now in its 18th year.

“The government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban movement should declare and implement an immediate and permanent ceasefire,” delegates said in a declaration at the end of the jirga.

They said the ceasefire should start at the beginning of the holy month of Ramazan, which gets underway in the coming days.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said he was “prepared to implement the fair and legitimate demand” for a ceasefire but stressed it “cannot be one-sided”.

“If the Taliban are fully ready for a ceasefire, then we can talk about the technical details,” Ghani said in a speech.

There was no immediate response from the Taliban, who currently are negotiating in separate talks with a US peace envoy in Qatar.

The insurgent group has so far refused to even speak with Ghani, who they view as an American stooge.

However, last year the Taliban announced a three-day ceasefire at the end of Ramazan after Ghani declared a unilateral ceasefire for eight days earlier in the month.

It was first formal nationwide ceasefire since the US-led invasion of 2001 and saw unprecedented scenes of reconciliation and jubilation in Kabul and across the country.

This week’s jirga was a remarkable gathering of Afghans from many walks of life. Emotions rode high with attendees sharing tears, recriminations and at least one fist fight as they revisited the horrors of Afghanistan’s recent past.

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