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Afghan President Ghani lays out plans for peace talks with Taliban

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Wednesday unveiled plans for a possible peace settlement with the Taliban that is hoped to end decades of violence.

In a speech during a conference in Kabul, Ghani proposed a ceasefire, prisoner release and recognition of the Taliban as a legitimate political party.

“We’re making this offer without any preconditions in order to lead to a peace agreement. I call on the Taliban and the leadership – today peace is in your hands,” Ghani said.

Ghani said the Taliban should in return recognize the Afghan government and the country’s constitution.  He spoke during the second round of a regional peace conference with 25 countries on counter-terrorism and security cooperation.

Earlier this week the Taliban called for direct talks with the United States to find a “peaceful” solution to the conflict. Civilian casualties have risen in recent months amid a wave of attacks in the capital and other urban areas.

Read more: The ‘weak link’: Afghan Police bear the brunt of insecurity in Afghanistan

In a statement posted late Monday, the Taliban said it “calls on American officials to talk directly to the Political Office of Islamic Emirate [in Qatar] regarding a peaceful solution to the Afghan quandary,” using its official name.

U.S. President Donald Trump has ruled out talks with the Taliban, but Ghani on Wednesday signaled willingness to sit down with the group.

He said the Afghan national unity government would provide passports for Taliban members and open an office for the group in Kabul, Tolo reported. He said the government would also work to remove sanctions against Taliban leaders.

Elsewhere in the country, Kandahar police said Taliban fighters wearing Afghan army uniforms abducted 19 passengers and police officers from a highway checkpoint in Uruzgan.

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