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Presidential vote, pursuit of peace priorities: NATO SCR

Presidential vote, pursuit of peace priorities: NATO SCR

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Apr 30, 2019 - 09:16

KABAUL (Pajhwok): NATOinfo-icon Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistaninfo-icon Sir Nicholas Kay has identified transparent presidential elections on September 28 and the continued pursuit of peace as top priorities.

In an exclusive interview with Pajhwok Afghan News, he hoped to see an intra-Afghan dialogue as soon as possible so that Afghans, amongst themselves, could work out the modalities and shape of peace in their country.

Following are excerpts from the interview:

Q: What do you think about the postponement of Doha talks?

A: It is disappointing that the Doha Institute conference did not take place as scheduled. But I hope it can be rescheduled soon.Making peace is a complicated process and it takes careful handling and patience. It is important that everyone remains flexible.We must remember that the conference in Doha is not a formal negotiation between Afghans, but rather exploratory talks.  The concept remains a good one, because in the end you can only have sustainable peace if this is a result of an inclusive intra-Afghan dialogue. We hope to see an intra-Afghan dialogue as soon as possible so that Afghans, amongst themselves, can work out the modalities and shape of peace in this country.

Q:  Do you think the presidential election will take place?

A: The elections are now planned for 28 September. It is very important that the Independent Election Commission addresses some of the shortcomings we have seen during the last parliamentary elections, so that we can havecredible, transparent and inclusive presidentialelections. The Afghan security forces will be in charge of all of the security aspects related to the elections process. As NATO, we stand ready to advise and assist them. Elections represent a cornerstone of constitutional democracy and are keyto guarantee a stable future for Afghanistan.

Q: What is NATO SCR’s position on an interim government in Afghanistan?

A: This is for the Afghans to decide in the context of any final peace agreement. In the meantime, the priorities are to hold presidential elections on 28 September and to continue to pursue a peace process.

Q: Do you think Ambassador Khalilzad’s efforts will be successful?

A: NATO allies strongly support Khalilzad’s efforts to bring about a political settlement to the Afghan conflict. He has briefed NATO ambassadors in Brussels four times in recent months and I remain in close contact with him. Khalilzad has been a driving force behind getting the Talibaninfo-icon to the negotiating table and preparing the ground for an intra-Afghan peace process.This would have been unthinkable just a year ago. There has not been a better opportunity for peace than now.

Q: Do you think Pakistaninfo-icon is sincere and honest when it comes to the Afghan peace process?

A: I think Pakistan is showing a strong interest in supporting a peaceful settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan. It is essential that all Afghanistan’s neighbours play a constructive role in helping to support an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process.

Q: Do you think the Consultative Loya Jirgainfo-icon is a positive step towards the peace process?

A: We welcome all efforts to hold national discussions, building national consensus on peace. It is essential that it is inclusive, reflecting views of all Afghans – womeninfo-icon and men, across generations, tribes and political convictions. A Loya Jirga is a very Afghan event. Afghans understand the role and value of a Jirgainfo-icon much better than their international partners. I wish all the best to the delegates and I hope they have fruitful discussions and arrive at a consensus which reflects the views of all Afghans.

Q:  Who will give Afghans guarantees that after a peace accord red lines will not be crossed?

A: Red lines are something that Afghans need to work out among themselves. And again, this needs to be a collective effort of all Afghan representatives, including the youth and women.

Afghanistan is a very different place to what it was 17 years ago. 63% of all Afghans are under the age of 25, so all they remember is the period after 9/11. Much progress has been madesince then in the realm of human rights, women’s rights, educationinfo-icon, press freedom, healthinfo-icon care and so on. Preserving these achievements will be key to lasting peace and security – for the benefit of all Afghans – and to sustain international cooperation and economic assistance to Afghanistan.

Q:  NATO has SOFA with Afghanistan. What will happen to SOFA after a possible peace accord?

A: NATO’s posture in Afghanistan has not changed. We are focusing on achieving a political settlement, ensuring that Afghanistan does not become again a safe haven of international terrorism. But this job is not complete yet. As the conditions change, we might collectively decide to adjust our posture in close coordination with the Afghan authorities. But for now, we remain in Afghanistan together and we will make future decisions on our mission together.  We don’t want to stay longer than necessary but again, we will not leave before the situation allows it. The Afghan National Defence and Security Forces are now responsible for security in the country. They are fighting insurgents with determination and bravery. These efforts are sending a clear message to the Taliban that they will not win on the battlefield, and they are creating the opportunity for peace in Afghanistan. NATOAllies and partnersremain fully committed to Afghanistan’s security. Through  their contributions to the NATO-led  Resolute Support mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan security forces, and through the support to their financial sustainment.

Q:  NATO remains committed to supporting the Afghan National Army until 2024.Will this change after a peace deal is reached with the Taliban?

A: Afghans clearly want the ANDSF to continue delivering stability after peace has been achieved. I think thiswill be crucial for a stable and secure Afghanistan going forward. Reintegration of the insurgents will also have to be part of the peace process, but the shape and form will have to be decided amongst Afghans. In principle, NATO Allies and partners remain committed to financially sustaining the Afghan National Army until 2024, as decided at the Brussels Summit last July. In practice, we have to help Afghans achieve a peace settlement and then see what the detail of that settlement is.

Q: Your message to Afghans?

A: My message is clear – seize this unique opportunity for peace. Set rivalry aside and concentrate on what can be done to build a national consensus around a peace that will benefit all Afghans. Push for a meaningful intra-Afghan dialogue which will lead to a truly Afghan solution to the conflict, and to durable peace. And this is not just for political elites to do. All Afghans have a stake. Recently, when visiting Kandahar and Helmand, I was extremely impressed by the local initiatives for peace. The south of Afghanistan might be called the birthplace of the Taliban but it is also the birthplace of peace marchers and peace activism.

Afghans clearly demand peace and security. Now is the time to make that happen and allow for a peaceful and prosperous future that all Afghans deserve.

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