Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Friday invited the Taliban to join the “political reconciliation process” in Afghanistan, marking a significant departure from his previous references to the militant group where he had called them “political opponents,” according to media reports.
“Peace is our highest priority. We invite the political opposition, particularly the Taliban, to join and enter Afghan dialogue, and ask all of our international partners to support an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process,” Ghani reportedly said, during an Afghan peace and reconstruction conference in Beijing. However, Ghani reportedly added that he “will not permit groups pursuing grand illusions to use Afghanistan as the battleground or launching-pad against the international system.”
Since Ghani took oath in September, the Taliban has reportedly intensified attacks in and around the capital city of Kabul in an attempt to undermine his authority and destabilize the fledgling government.
Ghani’s call was echoed by China’s Premier Li Keqiang, who urged all political groups in Afghanistan to “lay aside former enmity and join the political reconciliation process,” according to media reports.
“We think that the Afghan issue has to be solved by the people of Afghanistan. We believe that the Afghan people have the ability and the knowledge to solve their own issues….the international community should respect Afghanistan's sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, not interfere with its internal affairs and support Afghanistan's efforts to realize security and stability,” Li reportedly added.
Li also pledged a sum of nearly $330 million in grants toward providing professional training and scholarships for Afghans over the next few years, according to media reports.
“In the upcoming five years, China will provide help to train 3,000 people of all circles and provide 500 scholarships for students,” Li said, according to media reports.
In recent years, China has played an increasingly prominent role in the Afghan peace process, reportedly to ensure that the unrest in Afghanistan does not spill over to its restive Xinjiang province, which has witnessed frequent attacks by Islamist militants.
China’s involvement in Afghanistan has also been welcomed by the U.S., which views it as a “critical player” in the region, The Associated Press, or AP, reported, citing unnamed state department officials.
Ghani, on Friday, also thanked China for its efforts toward “promoting peace, prosperity and stability in Afghanistan and the region,” according to media reports.