Wednesday 17 January 2018

Afghan candidates agree resolution

US Secretary of State John Kerry has been in Kabul amid Afghanistan's presidential election impasse (AP)
US Secretary of State John Kerry has been in Kabul amid Afghanistan's presidential election impasse (AP)

Afghanistan's feuding presidential candidates have agreed to resolve their election dispute and say they will set the inauguration before the end of August.

The breakthrough comes as US Secretary of State John Kerry opened a second day of talks in Afghanistan aimed at preventing the fragile country from collapsing into political chaos after disputed elections.

Mr Kerry paid a courtesy call on Afghan president Hamid Karzai and met later with the two candidates, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah and ex-finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai. They have been locked in a bitter dispute over who will succeed Mr Karzai.

Mr Abdullah called the agreement a "step forward in the interests of strengthening national unity... and bringing hope to the people for the future of Afghanistan".

Mr Kerry told a news conference: "This is really an Afghan solution to an Afghan problem. Both parties have agreed to stay at it and both parties have agreed to live by the outcome."

Mr Ahmadzai said he and Mr Abdullah, whom he called a "brother and colleague", were determined to turn what he termed a "vicious circle" of turmoil in many parts of the Muslim world into a "virtuous circle" for the people of Afghanistan.

Mr Kerry is on a previously unannounced visit to Kabul to urge the candidates to accept the results of an ongoing audit of all ballots from the June election and form a national unity government by early September when Nato leaders will meet in Wales to consider their options in Afghanistan.

Mr Kerry called the agreement a "pivotal time" in Afghanistan's future.

The US believes the Nato summit would be an opportunity for the eventual election winner to present himself to the alliance and introduce his new cabinet which, under a formula brokered by Mr Kerry on his last visit to Kabul in June, would include the election loser appointing a new "chief executive officer" who would serve under the president.

Once created, the Afghan government would convene a "loya jirga", or nationwide assembly, to formalise the chief executive post as a prime minister, the plan envisions.

Mr Kerry's trip comes as results from the June 14 run-off are being audited in a process that he brokered last month but that had halted to mark the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in late July. The audit resumed earlier this week with representatives of both candidates participating but still at odds over charges of widespread malfeasance in the vote.

Preliminary results showed Mr Ahmadzai well ahead of Mr Abdullah, but both sides claimed irregularities and fraud.

With the clock ticking until the Nato summit, US officials travelling with Mr Kerry said he would stress the importance of the candidates looking at the "big picture" as the audit continues and not getting bogged down in endless debates over minor discrepancies that are unlikely to affect the final results.

Press Association

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