- Title: Kerry calls on Taliban to choose path to 'honourable' peace
- Date: 5th October 2016
- Summary: BRUSSELS, BELGIUM (OCTOBER 5, 2016) (REUTERS) EU FLAGS OUTSIDE EU COUNCIL BUILDING EXTERIOR OF EU COUNCIL BUILDING SOLDER STANDING OUTSIDE COUNCIL
- Embargoed: 20th October 2016 11:41
- Keywords: Kerry Afghanistan Brussels conference talibans
- Location: BRUSSELS, BELGIUM
- City: BRUSSELS, BELGIUM
- Country: Belgium
- Topics: Conflicts/War/Peace
- Reuters ID: LVA00152QBBD3
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:The Taliban should look at the example of a deal between the Afghan government and militant commander Gulbuddin Hekmatyar as a path to an "honourable" peace in Afghanistan, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Wednesday (October 5).
Kerry told an international conference in Brussels to raise funds for the Western-backed Afghan government that the Taliban could not win on the battlefield.
He pointed to a peace agreement announced last week with the Hezb-i-Islami militant group headed by Hekmatyar.
"In return for keeping these commitments, Hekmatyar's group will be able to emerge from the shadows to rejoin Afghan society. This is a model for what might be possible. We don't know yet, it has to be delivered, but it is a very important beginning. President Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah need to be congratulated together with all of their government for being willing to make this move, for being willing to take this risk. I think the message from every person here today would be, to the Taliban, take note," Kerry said.
Last week's agreement requires Hekmatyar to cease violence, cut all ties with international militant groups, and accept the Afghan constitution, including its guarantee of rights for women and minorities.
The agreement will grant Hekmatyar amnesty for past offences and the release of certain Hezb-i-Islami prisoners. The Kabul government also agreed to press for the lifting of international sanctions on Hekmatyar.
"There is a path forward towards an honourable end of the conflict that the Taliban have waged. It is a conflict that can not and will not be won on the battlefield. A political settlement negotiated with the Afghan government is the only way to end the fighting, ensure lasting stability and achieve a full drawdown, ultimately, of international military forces, which is their goal. So let me repeat it. Their goal of ridding Afghanistan of external forces will not occur by the demand or the continued insurgency, it will come through peace," he said.
The Brussels conference is expected to pledge more than $3 billion a year of development assistance to the Afghan government and Kerry said this was to be a sign that the world would stand by Afghanistan, where the United States and its allies have been battling the Taliban since 2001.
"The Taliban and their allies cannot wait us out. That's an important message. That is a message that will leverage talks, it's a message that will excite the possibilities of people having confidence to buy in to the peaceful future. And that is why we are here once again today. We will not abandon our Afghan friends," Kerry said.
Hekmatyar is a controversial figure, having been accused of killing or wounding thousands when his troops fired on Kabul during the civil wars of the 1990s. He has been designated a "global terrorist" by the United States.
During the 1980s, however, he received significant aid from the United States, as well as from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, to fight Soviet forces occupying Afghanistan.
Compared to other militant groups like the Taliban or Islamic State, Hezb-i-Islami has played a relatively small role in the insurgency recently and analysts say the accord is mostly symbolic.
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