`Taliban signaling openness to negotiations`

US Ambassador designate to Afghanistan said Taliban has for the first time in a decade showed openness to negotiations.

Washington: US Ambassador designate to Afghanistan James B Cunningham on Tuesday said the Taliban has for the first time in a decade showed openness to negotiations but made it clear that the insurgents will have to break ties with the al Qaeda first.

Addressing the US lawmakers during his confirmation hearing today, he made it clear that Washington was not abandoning Afghanistan.

"We have made clear to Afghans, and to the region, that the security transition does not mean we are abandoning Afghanistan," Cunningham told Senators in his testimony.

"The Taliban appear to be taking notice. For the first time in a decade, they are debating and signaling an openness to negotiations.

"The United States supports Afghan peace efforts, aimed at a responsible settlement of the conflict. The sole purpose of US support for reconciliation is to create the conditions for an inclusive national dialogue among all Afghans about the future of their country," he said.

Cunningham said US has been consistent about the necessary outcomes of any negotiation: insurgents must break ties with al-Qaida, renounce violence, and abide by the Afghan constitution, including the rights afforded to women and minorities.
"And we have been clear about steps the Taliban should take to build confidence, and signal their interest in a peace process.

"So, the Taliban face a clear choice: they can dissociate from international terrorism and enter an Afghan peace process, or face increasingly capable Afghan National Security Forces supported by the United States and our allies," he said.

Cunningham said that US was turning an new page in Afghanistan.

"Over the past several months, we and our Afghan and international partners have created an unprecedented yet sustainable framework of support for Afghanistan, consisting of a web of bilateral and multilateral commitments," he said.

Cunningham said a credible and inclusive presidential elections in 2014 is the key to future of stability of Afghanistan.

"All Afghans, whatever their gender, ethnicity or religion, have much to gain from a successful political transition, and the United States is committed to working with
International partners to support the Afghans as they choose their next leader," he said.

"There is much more to do to strengthen Afghanistan’s institutions, to ensure a smooth political transition in 2014 consistent with Afghanistan`s Constitution, and to build regional support for a stable, prosperous, secure Afghanistan in a stable, prosperous, secure region," he said in his opening remarks.


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