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Unity govt not America's idea: Cunningham

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James-B-Cunningham

US Ambassador to Afghanistan James B Cunningham on Monday dismissed the impression that Washington had imposed the idea of a national unity government on the two presidential candidates.

Speaking at a press conference at the US Embassy in Kabul, Cunningham said the formation of a national unity government was not a US plan. “It's not our idea; It was something agreed to by the two candidates following talks.”

The diplomat added Afghan politicians had been discussing with him and others over the past two years how to unite Afghanistan after the presidential elections.

“I think it will be accurate to say that both Dr. Abdullah and Dr. Ghani, in their conversations, have realised their historic responsibility to ensure the establishment of a strong and legitimate government, which represents all Afghans, no matter who they voted for.”

He said the statement the two runners issued at the end of their talks spoke for itself.  “They committed themselves to working through the many issues before them, to speed up the (vote) audit and to begin a structured conversation between their camps and themselves on how to create the national unity government they have agreed to form.”

The ambassador they had discussed the ongoing UN-supervised audit and had agreed to abide by the results. The presidential hopefuls also agreed the goal, what Afghans and their international partners wanted, was to try to inaugurate a new president by the end of August.

“There is now a pretty clear path ahead, a pretty clear idea of what needs to be done, and a lot of work and issues that still need to be worked through.”

Cunningham said the task for Abdullah and Ghani was to come to a durable agreement in the coming weeks on establishing the next government and its programme.

“The successful outcome of the audit and the creation of a unity government as a result of the political discussions are essential for the security and development of Afghanistan, and for the strength of Afghanistan’s relationship with its international partners.”

He maintained they encouraged the two men to continue to develop the political dialogue that had actually begun with the preparation of their joint statement.

“To do that it will be necessary to make transition from political competition to cooperation and to gain the broad support that will be necessary to ensure that the next government of Afghanistan is ready to address the serious problems which face the country.”

He said it was the goal of the candidates to have the new president representing Afghanistan at the NATO summit in early September, something they stoutly supported.

“This will be a very important opportunity for the new president to reaffirm Afghanistan’s engagement under a new government with many of its international partners and to begin building the path forward that all of us want to see,” the envoy remarked.

“It’s our hope that all Afghans involved in the political process will realise how important this is for Afghanistan and how important it is to turn the page on the political campaign and to begin to focus on what needs to be done for the future of the country,” he concluded.