BEIJING: Afghanistan is at a “critical moment” in its transition, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday, amid a deepening electoral crisis in the country, where a presidential candidate has rejected the preliminary results.
Fears have grown that Afghanistan could see a return to the ethnic bloodshed of its 1992-1996 civil war in the aftermath of the June 14 run-off vote.
Abdullah Abdullah, a former anti-Taliban resistance fighter, came second in preliminary results to Ashraf Ghani, but Abdullah said the election was fraudulent and he expected to become the next president.
“This is a critical moment of the transition which is essential to the future governance of the country,” Kerry told reporters in Beijing, saying he hoped that in the next few days a way would be found for Afghanistan to “grab a hold of the future”.
The vote base of Abdullah, a former World Bank economist, is among the Tajiks and other northern Afghan groups, while Ghani attracts much of his support from the Pashtun tribes of the south and east — an ominous echo of the ethnic divisions of the civil war.
Both men have called for the country to remain united as it faces a difficult transfer of power at the same time that 50,000 US-led NATO troops wind down their battle against Taliban insurgents and aid money declines.
Kerry said he had been in touch with both candidates “several times”, as well as outgoing president Hamid Karzai.
“We would encourage both of them to not raise expectations with their supporters, to publicly demonstrate respect for the audit process and the accountability process and also to show critical statesmanship and leadership at a time when Afghanistan obviously needs it,” he said.
Kerry spoke in China’s capital after completing annual strategic and economic dialogue talks with Chinese officials.
Menwhile, the US Secretary of State said Israel and the Palestinians faced a “dangerous moment” as violence spiralled in Gaza, adding he had urged a ceasefire compatible with Israeli self-defence.
Kerry told reporters he had been in touch with both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas “to see whether or not there’s some capacity to be able to restore the status quo ante with respect to a ceasefire”.
“It’s a dangerous moment,” Kerry said in Beijing after the conclusion of annual strategic and economic talks with top Chinese officials.
“We’re already engaged in trying to see if it is possible to bring an end to the violence and find a different way forward.”
But he added: “No country can accept rocket fire aimed at civilians and we support completely Israel’s right to defend itself against these vicious attacks.” Nearly 80 people have been killed in Gaza since Israel launched Operation Protective Edge early on Tuesday in a bid to halt cross-border rocket fire.
The violence follows the burning to death of a Palestinian teenager by Jewish extremists in apparent revenge for the kidnap and killing of three Israeli youths in the West Bank.
“The situation on the ground in Israel, in the West Bank and Gaza is obviously not only tense but it’s very, very dangerous for Israelis and for Palestinians in the aftermath of the deaths of the Israeli and Palestinian youth,” Kerry said.
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