Thursday, 21 November 2019

EU calls for Afghan ceasefire as Esper visits Kabul

EU Special Envoy for Afghanistan Roland Kobia (L) and EU Ambassador to Afghanistan Pierre Mayaudon (R) look on during a press conference in Kabul. (Photo by WAKIL KOHSAR / AFP)

KABUL: European Union officials called Sunday for a ceasefire in Afghanistan, saying the breakdown in US-Taliban talks presented an opportunity to push for a truce, as the US defense secretary made an unexpected visit to Kabul.

US President Donald Trump last month declared talks with the insurgents “dead”, citing a Taliban attack that killed a US soldier.

Negotiations had been in the final stages for a deal that would have seen the US pull troops from Afghanistan after 18 years in return for various Taliban guarantees.

But to the dismay of many Afghans and international observers, the deal included no immediate, comprehensive ceasefire, and rather would supposedly have paved the way for a reduction in violence and later talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

Roland Kobia, the EU special envoy for Afghanistan, said the talks collapse provided a chance to push for a ceasefire which would, in turn, prove a large enough change in Afghanistan for Trump to consider resuming negotiations.

“It s the right moment and the right opportunity to maybe go one step beyond a simple reduction in violence and explore ways in which a ceasefire… will take place,” Kobia told Kabul journalists.

“The idea is really to see how we can move the ceasefire idea forward instead of leaving it for later… There is an opportunity here today”.

In the meantime, violence in Afghanistan continues unabated. On Friday, at least 70 people were killed when a mosque in Nangarhar province was bombed.

When asked how the EU, which has only a limited footprint in Afghanistan, could leverage a truce, Kobia suggested that the Taliban might return to power in “one form or another” within months and so would entertain a truce to help normalise future relations with the European bloc.

“A ceasefire would be a token, a guarantee of goodwill and good preparation for the normalisation of these relationships,” Kobia said.

The Taliban has steadfastly ruled out an immediate ceasefire, but last year downed weapons for a three-day truce.

Afghanistan is currently in an uneasy waiting period following the first round of presidential elections on September 28.

Results were supposed to be released Saturday but have been indefinitely delayed due to “technical issues”, the Independent Election Commission said.

Pierre Mayaudon, head of the EU delegation in Afghanistan, said a delay of a few days to finalise results was legitimate to ensure votes were fairly counted.

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