Exiled Ashraf Ghani says supports Taliban-Karzai talks

Former Afghan president in his first media appearance after fleeing the country says he is 'in talks to return' home

AFP/Reuters August 19, 2021
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. PHOTO: FILE

Former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani said on Wednesday he supports talks between the Taliban and top former government officials, and added that he was "in talks to return" home after seeking refuge in the United Arab Emirates.

"I support the government initiative of ongoing negotiations with Abdullah Abdullah and former president Hamid Karzai. I want the success of this process," he said in a video message - his first appearance since fleeing the country for the UAE on Sunday.

On Wednesday, the United Arab Emirates said it was hosting Ghani and his family "on humanitarian grounds", in the first confirmation of his whereabouts.

Ghani, along with his close aides, flew out of Afghanistan on Sunday, paving way for the Taliban to regain power 20 years after a US-led military invasion ousted them.

Also read: UAE says it ‘welcomed Ashraf Ghani, family on humanitarian grounds’

Speaking from exile in the Gulf country, Ghani said that he had left Kabul to prevent bloodshed and denied reports he took large sums of money with him as he departed the presidential palace.

Ghani has been bitterly criticised by former ministers for leaving the country suddenly as Taliban forces entered Kabul on Sunday.

"If I had stayed, I would be witnessing bloodshed in Kabul," Ghani said in a video streamed on Facebook, his first public comments since it was confirmed he was in the UAE.

He left on the advice of government officials, he added.

A Taliban delegation led by a senior leader of the Haqqani Network group, Anas Haqqani, has met former Afghan president Hamid Karzai for talks, a Taliban official said earlier in the day, amid efforts by the group to set up a government.

Karzai was accompanied by the ousted government's main peace envoy Abdullah Abdullah and leader of Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in the meeting, said the Taliban official, who declined to be identified. He gave no more details.

The Haqqani Network is an important faction of the Taliban, who captured the capital, Kabul on Sunday.

Also read: Taliban pledge peace, women's rights

Russia's embassy in Kabul said on Monday that Ghani had fled the country with four cars and a helicopter full of cash.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan's embassy in Tajikistan has reportedly demanded Interpol police to arrest the former Afghan president and his aides on charges of stealing public wealth so that funds could be returned to Afghanistan.

On Tuesday, the Afghan Taliban had said they wanted peaceful relations with other countries and would respect the rights of women within the framework of Islamic law, as they held their first official news briefing since their shock seizure of Kabul.


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