US Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday held a series of meetings with both presidential candidates, security bosses and President Hamid Karzai in an effort to find an amicable end to the electoral standoff.
Following his arrival in Kabul late Thursday night, the top American diplomat met Karzai before noon, ahead of going into talks with Dr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and Dr Abdullah Abdullah on ways of resolving the impasse.
Daud Sultanzoy, a senior member of the Ahmadzai-led Change and Continuity team, confirmed a meeting between the Obama administration official and the ex-finance minister on the ongoing deadlock over the election results.
Without going into details, Sultanzoy said the meeting took place in atmosphere of trust and friendship. A proposal by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) for addressing the problem also figured at the talks.
Last night, UN Secretary General's Special Representative for Afghanistan Jan Kubis met President Karzai, the chief justice and chairmen and members of the election bodies.
Kubis suggested a recount of votes from over 8,000 polling stations -- 43 percent or 3.5 million ballots. He will formally present the proposal to the commissions and the presidential hopefuls.
Asked if Kerry had recommended a coalition government as a means of resolving the crisis, Sultanzoy replied: “As a matter of fact, Dr. Ashraf Ghani has never approved of this idea.”
Elections were held to ensure a fair competition between two sides, not to form a coalition government, he argued. He hastened to explain that a government of national unity was not a bad idea.
Before the meeting, Kerry said: "I want to say very quickly that it’s a pleasure to meet with Dr. Ghani again. We know each other well; we’ve had many, many discussions through the years, and I’m here because President Obama and the United States of America are deeply interested in a unified, democratic, and stable Afghanistan.
"We obviously have high hopes that the questions about the election will be resolved quickly, can be resolved, and that a way forward can take place which can give Afghans confidence that they have a presidency and a government that is capable of unifying all Afghans and building a road to the future. So that’s why I’m here and we’re going to have a lot to talk about."
Ghani replied: "It’s a great honor and pleasure to welcome Secretary of State Kerry to Afghanistan. He’s been a friend of Afghanistan for many years. I’ve had the pleasure and honor to work with him personally on the security agreement and a range of other issues. We are delighted the Secretary is here.
"Our commitment is to ensure that the election process enjoys the integrity and the legitimacy that the people of Afghanistan and the world will believe. Therefore, we believe in the most intensive and extensive audit possible to restore faith. Simultaneously, from day one when we accepted our nominations, our commitment has been to an inclusive government, a government that could represent all of Afghans and serve every Afghan citizen in the manner that every Afghan deserves according to the constitution.
We are delighted that you’re here, Mr. Secretary, and look very much forward to conversation."
Meanwhile, Reform and Unanimity team spokesman Syed Aqa Fazil Sancharaki also verified talks between Abdullah and the secretary of state. “He characterised the meeting as positive and said: “Both sides stressed transparency of the election process.”
Kerry was not expected to resolve all of Afghanistan’s problems with a magic wand, Sancharaki remarked, hoping the US-led global fraternity would continue to underline the integrity of the electoral process.
“At the meeting, both sides agreed the international community will accept the result of a credible election acceptable to the people of Afghanistan,” he said.
Later in the day, the secretary conferred with the UNAMA head on his proposal for the recount of 43 percent of votes -- a proposition that Abdullah's supporters have spurned.
Meanwhile, Kerry also met senior Interior Ministry officials on the security environment in the country in the build-up to NATO's combat mission later this year.
One source said Interior Minister Omar Daudzai, Defence Minister Bismillah Mohammadi, NDS head Rahmatullah Nabeel and National Security Advisor Rangin Dadfar Spanta and US Ambassador James Cunningham also attended the meeting.
Omar Daudzai praised Afghan forces' role in maintaining security for the presidential elections and demonstrating impartiality. Kerry insisted on the security personnel's professional conduct.