Afghan leader proposes road map to peace in three phases

President Ashraf Ghani set out plan before May 1 deadline for foreign troops to leave Afghanistan

epa09087555 Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani speaks during celebrations to mark the Persian New Year Nowruz at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, 21 March 2021. The New Persian Year, which has been celebrated for at least 3,000 years, is one of the most important celebrations in the greater Persian world, which includes the countries of Iran, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Turkey, and portions of western China and northern Iraq, and is traditionally celebrated on the Spring equinox, the day when the duration of night and day are roughly equivalent, usually falling on the 20 or 21 March.  EPA/HEDAYATULLAH AMID

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani will propose a three-phase peace roadmap for Afghanistan during a proposed meeting in Turkey, seeking an agreement with the Taliban and a ceasefire before elections, a document seen by Reuters shows.

Washington is pushing for a conference to be hosted by Turkey, with UN involvement, this month to finalise a peace deal between the government and the Taliban as a May 1 deadline looms for the withdrawal of all foreign troops.

Mr Ghani's plan will be presented as a counter to proposals put forward by Washington, and rejected by the Afghan government, that include immediately drawing up a new legal system for an interim administration to include Taliban representatives.

The document shows Mr Ghani's "Reaching an Endstate" proposal will include, in the first phase, a consensus on a political settlement and an internationally monitored ceasefire.

The second phase will be a presidential election and the establishment of a "government of peace", and arrangements for moving towards the new political system.

The third phase will involve building a "constitutional framework, reintegration of refugees and development" for Afghanistan.

A senior government official said Mr Ghani had already shared his road map with foreign governments.

A date for the Turkey meeting is yet to be decided, but sources told Reuters it could take place in two weeks.

The Afghan government and politicians said they would have to agree on an agenda with the Taliban before the meeting.

Last month, the Taliban threatened to resume hostilities against foreign troops in Afghanistan if they did not meet the May 1 deadline spelt out in an agreement with the administration of president Donald Trump last year.

US President Joe Biden said this month it would be hard to withdraw the last troops from Afghanistan by May 1, "just in terms of tactical reasons", but he said he did not think they still would be there next year.

A senior government official said the Taliban was willing to extend the May 1 dateline and would cease attacks against foreign troops in exchange for the release of thousands of their prisoners held by the Kabul authorities.

Mohammad Naeem, a Taliban spokesman in Qatar, said no such offer had been made.