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Afghan President Says He's Ready To Discuss Elections, In Bid To Advance Taliban Peace Talks

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghanistan's president said he was open to holding new elections as a way to transfer power, but insisted any new government should emerge only through the democratic process.

The comments by Ashraf Ghani at the March 6 opening of the country's parliamentary session appeared to be a bid to push peace talks with the Taliban forward.

"Transfer of power through elections is a nonnegotiable principle for us," Ghani said.

"We stand ready to discuss holding free, fair, and inclusive elections under the auspices of the international community. We can also talk about the date of the elections and reach a conclusion," he said.

Ghani’s comments came days after reports emerged that the U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, suggested a new format for the country’s political future during his visit to Kabul this week.

Khalilzad is now in Qatar, where the Afghan government and Taliban leaders delegation have been holding peace talks since September 2020.

U.S. President Joe Biden's administration has begun a review of its strategy for Afghanistan. That includes the agreement reached with the Taliban a year ago that paved the way for the ongoing peace talks.

Under that agreement, U.S. forces are set to withdraw by May, but a surge in fighting in past months has sparked concerns that a speedy exit may spark greater bloodshed and chaos.

Based on reporting by dpa and Reuters