US urges Afghans to unite for Taliban talks amid election dispute

By: AFP      Published: 10:34 PM, 25 Feb, 2020
US urges Afghans to unite for Taliban talks amid election dispute

The United States on Tuesday urged Afghan leaders to unite for upcoming talks with the Taliban, pointedly not congratulating President Ashraf Ghani on his disputed victory.

In a statement a week after the results were published, State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said the US “notes” the announcement and warned against “destabilizing actions.”

She confirmed that Ghani had agreed to postpone the presidential inauguration that had been set for Thursday—two days before the expected US signing of a peace deal with the Taliban.

“The Afghan people want peace,” Ortagus said.

“It is time to focus not on electoral politics, but on taking steps toward a lasting peace.”

She called for feuding leaders to set up “an agreed national framework for peace that is fully representative” to prepare for talks with the Taliban, which are expected to begin in March.

The State Department specifically warned against “purported efforts to establish parallel government structures,” in a clear reference to a call by Ghani’s rival Abdullah Abdullah to set up a rival government.

“Such moves call into question the country’s sovereignty and unity that the United States strongly supports,” Ortagus said.

The US stance is in sharp contrast with that of the European Union, whose top diplomat Josep Borrell quickly congratulated Ghani in a telephone call.

Regional power India, a key ally of the internationally recognized government, has also congratulated Ghani.