By Shadi Khan Saif
KABUL, Afghanistan (AA) – Afghanistan’s top political leaders gathered in the capital Kabul on Saturday for the maiden meeting of the High Council of National Reconciliation (HCNR).
President Ashraf Ghani said the peace process has entered a crucial second stage, following headway made in negotiations with the Taliban in Qatar.
“This war has no more religious legitimacy. The Afghan people desire peace and it is our duty to ensure peace,” he said.
Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the HCNR, said any peace deal will require certain sacrifices but will not mean a return to the past for Afghanistan.
“We are calling for permanent cease-fire. War destroys the country and everyone [in it], but peace will guarantee a future for everyone,” he said.
This was the first meeting of the HCNR, which was set up in May following an agreement between Ghani and Abdullah and currently has 45 members.
It came after the Afghan government and the Taliban confirmed on Wednesday that the procedure for intra-Afghan talks has been finalized, a development that has been widely welcomed.
The announcement marked the first major breakthrough since talks between the Kabul government and the Taliban started in Qatar’s capital Doha on Sep. 12.