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Wednesday, October 5, 2016, 22:55

EU sees support for Afghan peace talks

By Reuters
EU sees support for Afghan peace talks
(From left) NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Afghanistan's Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, Afghanistan's President Mohammad Ashram Ghani, President of Council Donald Tusk, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy / Vice-President of the Commission Federica Mogherini, US Secretary of State John Kerry, Aga Khan pose for a family photo a meeting on Afghanistan at the EU Headquarters in Brussels on Oct 5, 2016. (John Thys / AFP)

BRUSSELS – Regional powers agreed to try to revive Afghanistan's stalled peace process after almost 40 years of conflict, the EU's foreign policy chief said on Wednesday, as governments began to raise some US$13 billion to fund the country through 2020.

With the government in Kabul facing a resurgent Taliban 15 years after US forces helped oust the militants, more than 70 governments in Brussels promised further financial support.

The European Union is leading the effort, partly with the aim of slowing Afghan migrant flows into Europe.

As well as funding, the EU focused on getting stalled peace negotiations back on track by bringing together the United States, China, India, and Pakistan at a dinner on Tuesday night.

Federica Mogherini, who coordinates EU foreign policy, said there was an understanding "to work on a common basis for regional political support for the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan."

"Yesterday night we found common ground to support this process with a regional perspective and the European Union will try to facilitate this," Mogherini said.

HAZARAS STAGE PROTEST

The EU and Afghanistan signed a political agreement this month to make it easier to return Afghans whose asylum requests fail.

European governments, facing increasing opposition from voters to immigration at home, have pressed Afghanistan to accept more repatriations, saying that many parts of the country, including the capital Kabul, are safe.

That policy has faced sharp criticism from aid groups and others who point to the widening Taliban insurgency across the country and the frequent suicide attacks that hit Kabul.

Several hundred members of Afghanistan's mainly Shi'ite Hazara minority, which has been targeted by Taliban and Islamic State militants, protested outside the conference venue.

"I hope that the newly signed repatriation agreement with Afghanistan will be implemented in practice," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told reporters.

TALIBAN PEACE TALKS?

Two people briefed on Mogherini's dinner, attended by US Secretary of State John Kerry and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon among others, told Reuters that Chinese and Indian officials were willing to consider peace talks.

Pakistan continues to harbor Afghan Taliban, the United States says. India is unconvinced the militants have changed, judging by the way they rule the 10 percent of Afghan territory they control, one official said.

"There are several countries that actually can help come together, and I urge Russia, China, Pakistan, India and Iran to think about the special role that they could play in this region in order to make a major difference ... in reaching peace with the Taliban," Kerry told the donor conference.

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