UNITED NATIONS, June 19 (Xinhua) -- The top UN envoy for Afghanistan on Wednesday called for efforts to promote direct peace talks between the Taliban group and the Afghan government.
Tadamichi Yamamoto, the UN secretary-general's special representative for Afghanistan, said that efforts need to be directed toward the start of formal negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban for a peace agreement.
"I am encouraged by signs of increasing consultations between countries leading these initiatives in support of a political settlement. The common message to the Taliban is clear: come to the table and negotiate directly with the Afghan government," he told a Security Council meeting on Afghanistan.
Direct talks between the United States and the Taliban are continuing with broad international support while some prominent Afghan actors already had the opportunity to exchange views with Taliban representatives in Moscow in late May, he noted.
"Today, the minds of the Afghan people and their international partners are more focused than ever on the need to reach a negotiated settlement. This momentum must not be lost," said Yamamoto. "I call upon those countries with direct contacts and with influence over the Taliban to intensify their efforts toward this goal. But ultimately, there is no substitute for the Afghan people taking ownership and advancing their inclusive dialogue toward a peace process."
He asked government and political leaders to foster consensus and create structured arrangements to effectively represent the interests of all Afghan people in their engagement with the Taliban.
Preparations for the presidential election should not distract from this necessary work, he said.
But Yamamoto stressed that the presidential election scheduled for Sept. 28 will be a key moment to reaffirm the legitimacy of Afghanistan's democratic political structure.
The electoral management bodies, state institutions, political leaders, candidates and international partners owe it to the Afgan people to deliver credible and timely elections and to make the outcome of this process accepted, he said.
He warned that timelines remain tight with significant operational and technical challenges.
After last year's highly controversial parliamentary elections and the subsequent dismissal of all electoral commissioners, the most daunting task for the new electoral management bodies is regaining public confidence, said Yamamoto.
"The political stakes are high and competition is intense. It is the responsibility of all political actors, including presidential candidates, and of security and government agencies, to ensure that the elections are contested on a level playing field."
Afghanistan cannot afford a contentious and protracted post-election crisis, which could result in a presidency with brittle domestic legitimacy. Such a result would harm the new president's ability to bring the Afghan people together in a meaningful and representative peace process, he said.