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Afghan Government and people want talks with Taliban, UN envoy says

21 September 2007 Afghanistan’s Government and its people are open to negotiations with the Taliban in the interests of ending the fighting there, a top United Nations envoy said today – the International Day of Peace, when thousands of Afghans marched in commemoration even as deadly violence exploded in parts of the country.

Speaking to reporters in New York, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Tom Koenigs, pointed to the activities across Afghanistan in observance of the Day as evidence of a deep-seated desire for lasting security.

“What we take from this broad support is there is a cry for peace in Afghanistan, from the civil society – from everybody – and there are possibilities for peace,” he said.

At the same time, the envoy acknowledged the outbreak of “war-like violence” in Helmand province and also in the capital Kabul, where a French solider was killed today along with a civilian by an improvised explosive device (IED) which wounded a number of others.

The UN will “continue to build on this broad support” for peace, marked by wide public and official calls for negotiations with the Taliban.

“It is obvious that among those who support the Taliban and even among those who support their violent actions, there are quite a number of people who are tired of war and who respond to the cry of the people for peace,” said Mr. Koenigs.

At the same time, he cautioned against expectations of an immediate change. “These negotiations we cannot expect to come to a quick result.”

The fact that the talks are called for “opens a possibility to act for those who might feel in charge to follow this up,” he said.

“We from the United Nations will certainly support peace talks because the insurgency cannot be won over by military means only and we have to keep the door open for negotiations,” he added.

“We don’t expect that the hardcore of the Taliban will negotiate, but there are certainly tribes who are alienated who can be brought back.” Mr. Koenigs said negotiations must be based on the Afghan Constitution.

“We call also for support of peace initiatives by the neighbouring countries,” he said, terming the Afghan-Pakistani frontier “a very difficult border.” A coordinated effort to address this problem is necessary, he said.

Mr. Koenigs heads the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), which is currently working to provide political and strategic advice for the peace process and carry out other tasks, including promoting human rights and managing all UN humanitarian relief, recovery, reconstruction and development activities in coordination with the Government.

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