KABUL – The European Union’s top diplomat said on Tuesday the bloc was ready to stand as a guarantor of peace efforts to end the 18-year war in Afghanistan, although she cautioned that the process should be led by the Afghan government.
Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign affairs and security policy chief, said in a joint press conference with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani that she appreciated the efforts of the international community, including the United States, attempting to resolve the protracted conflict.
Mogherini, whose trip to Kabul was unannounced, expressed Europe’s full support for an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process, emphasizing that the Afghan people must have the right to decide their own future and insisting that women representatives should be brought to the table to ensure the process’ success.
“Afghans have to stay owners of the (peace) process,” she said after meeting Ghani on her first visit to Afghanistan since taking over as the EU’s high representative.
Mogherini said the EU was ready to serve, if required, as a guarantor of the peace process for a possible deal with the Taliban insurgency that controls large swathes of the Asian country.
The remarks came after US officials and Taliban representatives held several rounds of talks in recent months in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar amid opposition from Ghani’s government, which insists on having a central role in the peace talks.
The Taliban have refused to hold direct talks with the Afghan government.
At the end of the latest meeting in Qatar on March 12, the Taliban said there had been progress on issues such as the withdrawal of foreign troops, although a concrete draft had yet to be prepared.
As the insurgents refuse to engage with Kabul, the government has announced it will intensify the offensive against the Taliban.
The Afghan government controls just 55 percent of the country’s area, while the Taliban rule over approximately 11 percent. The remaining territory is contested between the parties, according to data published by the US Congress’ Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.
Mogherini said the EU had no agenda other than peace, security and prosperity for Afghanistan and would therefore continue to help the government make the peace process more inclusive and bring in reforms, including in the security sector.
The diplomat insisted that the EU was committed to “maintaining and strengthening the political, economic and social achievements of the last 18 years, including the rights of women, children and minorities.”
The first step for ensuring the success of peace talks should be a ceasefire between the warring groups, she added.
After expressing his appreciation for the EU’s support for the Afghan people and the government, Ghani said that efforts should be made towards obtaining a lasting peace.
“Stability that comes through violence, threat and force is not stability, but indeed a new chapter of violence,” he said.