Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has sketched out parts of his peace proposal at a regional summit, hinting for the first time he may be open to a possible transitional government leading to early elections.
The comments, made on March 30 at the Heart of Asia summit in Tajikistan's capital, Dushanbe, come as the United States and other powers attempt to resuscitate a stalled peace process between the Afghan government and Taliban.
Ghani is expected to unveil more details of his peace proposal at U.S.-initiated international conference in Turkey in April.
The United States has suggested the formation of a transitional government, something Ghani had resisted.
The Taliban have so far rejected a cease-fire demanded by Kabul, putting the fate of intra-Afghan peace talks taking place in Doha in doubt since they began in September.
In his comments, Ghani laid out a three-point plan for peace, but said that any political settlement with the Taliban should be endorsed by a traditional Afghan consultative assembly known as a Loya Jirga.
Ghani said that after an internationally monitored cease-fire he would be open to the formation of a “government of peace building,” or a transitional government, followed by early elections.
Such a government, he said, would be formed by the country's current elected leadership and "other Afghans," by which he appeared to mean the Taliban or other politicians.
He said he "strongly" backs early elections and would hand over power to an elected successor.
"I...strongly support holding elections at the earliest possible time," Ghani said. "My greatest honor will be to hand over authority to my elected successor."
Ghani said the last phase of his proposal following an election is to maintain peace in a united, democratic Afghanistan.
“This process includes long-term work of national reconciliation, reintegration of combatants and refugees, defining our new security development and government’s priority,” he said.
The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden is reviewing the peace plan with the Taliban reached by the previous administration last year.
Under that plan, U.S. and other foreign troops should withdraw from Afghanistan by May 1 -- a deadline which Biden has said will be difficult to meet. Failure to withdrawal U.S. troops by the deadline or find a political compromise with the Taliban could lead to the collapse of talks and more violence.
Earlier in the month, regional players met with Afghan political and government leaders as well as Taliban negotiators in Moscow. U.S. special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who has been shuttling around the region, also attended.