Afghanistan’s president says will step aside if election is held

At a regional summit in Tajikistan, Ashraf Ghani says he ‘strongly supports holding elections at the earliest possible time’.

Ghani has resisted the proposal for a new transitional government in Afghanistan [File: Mariam Zuhaib/AP]

Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani has outlined his plans for peace at a regional summit in Tajikistan, saying he would step aside if an election was held.

The ninth Heart of Asia summit, aimed at promoting peace and security in Afghanistan, this year comes at a sensitive time as the United States and other powers attempt to revive the peace process with a proposal for a new transitional government.

Ghani has resisted the proposal, saying elections must take place before he will step aside.

“I … strongly support holding elections at the earliest possible time,” Ghani said at the conference in Dushanbe on Tuesday. “My greatest honour will be to hand over authority to my elected successor.”

The Reuters news agency reported last week that Ghani would propose new presidential elections within six months under a plan he intended to put forward as a counteroffer to the US proposal that he rejects, according to two government officials.

Ghani, who took office in 2014 and was sworn in for a second five-year term last year, added the details on Tuesday, saying that once a political settlement was reached, it should be endorsed by an Afghan assembly, known as the Loya Jirga and followed by a ceasefire with international monitoring.

The Taliban have so far rejected a ceasefire and said they would not directly join an interim government.

Tuesday’s conference was one in a series of high-profile meetings on Afghanistan as the US reviews its plans for the peace process.

The US recently suggested the formation of a transitional government – called a “peace government” – in which the Taliban would be involved.

Under this plan, a new constitution would be drafted and power would eventually be transferred to a permanent government after elections.

Meanwhile, violence has risen while progress stalls at peace negotiations in Doha. One of the issues at stake is how the country should be run after a possible peace agreement.

Earlier in the month, main regional players met with Afghan political and government leaders as well as Taliban negotiators in Moscow.

Washington is also preparing for a conference it has asked the United Nations to hold soon in Turkey, though the date has not been announced.

According to a deal signed with the Taliban last year, former US President Donald Trump had agreed that US troops would leave Afghanistan by May 1.

Source: News Agencies