NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, speaking to media at the end of the first day of the NATO defense ministerial in Brussels on Wednesday, said "the only way to create lasting and sustainable peace in Afghanistan is, of course, to have the Afghans owning the peace process and agreeing on the way forward."
Stoltenberg responded to TOLOnews reporter Miraqa Popalís question about whether peace was close, and if so what would be the role of NATO in post-deal in Afghanistan:
"We welcome any step towards a reduction of violence in Afghanistan and we strongly support the peace process, any initiative to establish an intra-Afghan dialogue," the secretary general said, adding: "And thatís exactly the aim of the dialogue, the talks between the Taliban and the United States, is to facilitate, create the conditions for an agreement to initiate intra-Afghan dialogue."
"Because the only way to create lasting and sustainable peace in Afghanistan is, of course, to have the Afghans owning the peace process and agreeing on the way forward," he mentioned.
He also said that the NATO will continue to consult closely with the United States:
"Secretary Esper (US Secretary of Defense) briefed the allies today. Ambassador Khalilzad was in NATO recently and updated and consulted with allies on the efforts to reach an agreement with the Taliban."
"Taliban has to show and demonstrate a real willingness, a real willingness and that they are capable of delivering reduction in violence. And Taliban has also to understand that they will never win on the battlefield, they have to make real compromises around the negotiating table," he added.
"And thatís exactly why the best way NATO can support the peace process is to continue to support, train, assist and advise the Afghan security forces and continue to provide funding. We are committed to do that," he stressed.
He also said that one should remember that NATO used to be in Afghanistan with a large force of 130,000 troops, which is now reduced to a 16,000- member mission, and he credited the increased capacity of Afghan forces with taking on the role of providing security.
NATOís Senior Civilian Representative Nicholas Kay, speaking to Afghan reporters at the ministerial, said that he believes that Afghans will put the "national interest" ahead of personal agendas during the peace process, and noted that all political leaders in Afghanistan want peace.
Kay said that the intra-Afghan talks cannot involve "34 million" at the table, but must be inclusive and represent all.
Kay said, regarding the process, "time may be moving quickly now," and he said that many nations have shown interest in helping with the intra-Afghan process, and said there is a willingness from the international community to facilitate intra-Aghan dialogue, as opposed to an actual intra-Afghan negotiation. Such a dialogue was hosted by the Qataris and Germans last year, Kay mentioned.
Asked about the conflict between Ghani and Abdullahís camps within the government, Kay said that last week NATO and donor countries issued a statement saying that the current National Unity Government of Afghanistan must continue functioning as mandated by the original agreement, right up until the election process is completed and a new administration is in place.