Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani says his government is ready to declare a ceasefire with the Taliban militant group as the grand peace assembly, known as a Loya Jirga, demanded an immediate and permanent truce.
Speaking at the closing ceremony of the summit in Kabul on Friday, Ghani said the ceasefire “cannot be one-sided.”
“If the Taliban is ready for a ceasefire in a way, we can work on technical details of it,” he said.
Ghani also announced the release of 175 Taliban prisoners as “a gesture of goodwill”.
He also renewed his call for direct talks between the Kabul government and the Taliban militants.
The Taliban, which rejected an invitation to attend the summit, have refused so far to meet with the government of Ghani, calling it illegitimate.
The militant group, however, is engaged in talks with the United States.
On Wednesday, the Taliban and the US resumed a new round of negotiations, excluding Kabul, in Qatar’s capital of Doha, where the militant group runs a representative office.
Ghani’s ceasefire call comes as the Loya Jirga’s delegates demanded the Afghan government and the Taliban to “declare and implement an immediate and permanent ceasefire.”
The ceasefire should start at the beginning of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which is set to begin next week, they said in a declaration at the end of the gathering.
The peace summit had gathered 3,200 religious and tribal leaders, politicians and representatives from across the country.
There was no direct response from the Taliban to Ghani’s offer, but its spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement that the group would “try not to inflict civilian casualties” during and after Ramadan.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan welcomed the assembly’s outcome and truce call, saying “This would help create conditions for peace and save Afghan lives. UNAMA stands ready to assist all parties to bring an end to the conflict.”
The assembly’s declaration also recommended a timeline for the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan.
The US and its allies invaded Afghanistan under the guise of the war on terror. Some 18 years on, the Taliban militants have only boosted their campaign of violence across the country.
The American forces have remained bogged down in Afghanistan through the presidencies of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and now Donald Trump.