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Afghan president forms team to negotiate peace with Taliban

Afghan president forms team to negotiate peace with Taliban
Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani attends a two-day conference on Afghanistan at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, November 27, 2018. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse -
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DENIS BALIBOUSE(Reuters)
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By Tom Miles

GENEVA (Reuters) - Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani has formed a 12-strong negotiating team to seek a peace agreement that would include the Taliban in a democratic and inclusive society that respects the rights of women, he told a U.N. conference on Wednesday.

"I'm pleased to announce today that after several months of intensive consultation with our citizens across the country, we have formulated a roadmap for peace negotiations," Ghani said.

"We have formed the required bodies and mechanisms to pursue a peace agreement. We are now moving ahead into the next chapter of the peace process."

Ghani said his chief of staff would lead the negotiating team, and there would also be an advisory board, comprising nine diverse and representative committees, to input into the negotiations.

"Presidential elections in the spring are key to successful peace negotiations. The Afghan people need an elected government with a mandate to obtain ratification, implement the peace agreement and lead the societal reconciliation process."

"Implementation will take a minimum of five years to reintegrate six million refugees and internally displaced people," he said.

The key confidence building measures would need to happen early on, within the first year, he added.

The offer of peace was unconditional but the peace was conditional on acceptance by Afghan society, he said.

Afghanistan's chief executive Abdullah Abdullah said the five-phased approach would start with an intra-Afghan dialogue, followed by discussions with Pakistan and the United States, then regional actors, the Arab Islamic world and finally NATO and non-NATO countries.

(Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Stephanie Nebehay and Matthew Mpoke Bigg)

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