Islamic leaders hail accord to promote peace in Afghanistan

The Organisation of Islamic Co-operation has hailed the signing of the Declaration of Peace in Afghanistan by Afghan and Pakistani scholars at a meeting hosted by Saudi Arabia in Makkah on Thursday.

The conference, organised by the Muslim World League, brought together senior scholars from both countries for the first time with the aim of supporting peace efforts in Afghanistan, the state Saudi Press Agency reported.

The declaration signed at the meeting “provides a final and comprehensive solution to the Afghan conflict, by supporting reconciliation between the conflicting parties in Afghanistan, and bringing them to a common ground, by addressing all political, social, economic and other related issues, through the spirit of joint action in order to stop the ongoing bloodshed in Afghanistan, and to lead the people of Afghanistan towards peace, reconciliation, stability and progress,” SPA said.

“It emphasises that violence is not linked to any religion, nationality, civilisation or race, and considers violence resulting from extremism and terrorism in all its forms, including violence against civilians and suicide attacks, contrary to the principles of Islam.”

Yousef Al Othaimeen, the OIC secretary general, said the declaration “reflects the great efforts made by the Kingdom [of Saudi Arabia], as the current president of the Islamic Summit, and its pivotal role in reconciliation among the parties in the Islamic countries”.

Afghanistan has suffered from decades of conflict. During the country’s nine-year war against Soviet forces after Russia’s 1979 invasion, as many as one million civilians were killed.

Russian troops eventually withdrew, only for the country to be gripped by civil war between 1992 and 1996 which left parts of the capital city Kabul in ruins.

The new push for peace was held as the Afghan government and Taliban insurgents continue talks in Doha to end two decades of war in the country, after the invasion by a US-led international coalition in 2001.

Since then, about 100,000 Afghan civilians, 65,000 Afghan soldiers and police and 2,300 US soldiers have been killed.

Up to 30,000 Taliban insurgents are also thought to have died.

All international forces are scheduled to leave Afghanistan by September 11 this year.

Current peace negotiations have made little progress since they began in September.

The militants have stepped up operations against government forces and civilian casualties continue to rise as a result of the fighting and attacks claimed by the Afghan affiliate of ISIS.

Saudi Arabia’s Council of Senior Scholars called on all warring parties to engage in peace talks, take responsibility, be rational and abide by the declaration.

The document was signed by Pakistan’s Minister for Religious Affairs, Noorul Haq Qadri, and Afghanistan’s Hajj, Guidance and Endowments Minister, Mohammad Qasim Halimi, on behalf of the scholars from both countries.

Mr Halimi said the declaration was “an expression of the victory of the voice of reason and the silencing of bullets and explosions that burnt everything”.

“As a government official I can say now that all barriers to reconciliation are removed,” he said.

Shafiq Samim, Afghanistan’s ambassador and permanent representative to the OIC, said the Makkah conference was a serious attempt to find ways to solve the Afghan problem through constructive dialogue and effective mediation.