KABUL (Reuters) – Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his rival Abdullah Abdullah signed a power-sharing deal to end a months-long political stalemate, Ghani’s spokesman said on Sunday, a step that could smooth efforts to end the country’s longrunning war.
Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani and his rival Abdullah Abdullah sign a political agreement during a ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan May 17, 2020. Afghan Presidential Palace/Handout via REUTERS
“The Political Agreement between President Ghani and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah has just been signed,” said Sediq Sediqqi, Ghani’s spokesman, on Twitter. Abdullah would lead the council for peace talks with the insurgent Taliban and his team members would be included in cabinet, Sediqqi added.
Seddiqi said more details would be released shortly. It was not immediately known which ministerial positions Abdullah’s camp would control.
Abdullah had disputed the results of an election in September and announced the formation of a parallel government earlier this year, undermining Ghani’s administration at a time when the United States was trying to advance a peace process with the Taliban to end the 19-year Afghan war.
Discussions over the final sticking points including the allocation of some key posts had been underway throughout the day, three sources said.
Abdullah had wanted to control a major portfolio such as finance or foreign affairs and while Ghani had not agreed to this, he could offer control of the interior ministry, sources said shortly before the deal was signed.
Washington has been frustrated by the growing impasse between the two men, even after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo travelled to Kabul in March to mediate. It had announced it planned to cut $1 billion in aid because the men could not agree.
It was not immediately clear whether Sunday’s agreement would result in the aid commitment being reinstated. Afghanistan is facing growing fiscal pressures, with tax revenues falling and foreign aid pledges due this year expected to shrink.
Officials say a deal between the Ghani and Abdullah is crucial to launching peace talks, as Abdullah’s camp represents much of the country’s north-west.
But the talks face a number of stark challenges, as violence in the country increases. An attack on a Kabul maternity ward this week prompted Ghani to switch the military to an “offensive” stance against insurgent groups.
The Taliban has denied involvement in the attack, but the government has remained sceptical and angry at ongoing Taliban attacks against the Afghan military, fraying the momentum for peace talks, which were due to start in March.
U.S. Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said on Friday that a new date for intra-Afghan peace talks was under discussion and he would soon travel to the region and try to encourage a reduction in violence.
Reporting by Hamid Shalizi and Abdul Qadir Sediqi; Additional reporting by Orooj Hakimi; Writing by Euan Rocha and Charlotte Greenfield; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore, William Mallard and Frances Kerry