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‘We want ceasefire’: Hundreds of protesters march for peace in Afghanistan

Several hundred protesters marched in three cities in southern and eastern Afghanistan to call for a ceasefire and an end to the 17-year war Thursday, the latest action of a movement launched in May 2018.

In Kandahar, the southern cradle of the Taliban, and in the eastern cities of Khost and Jalalabad, they marched holding placards saying: “No War”, “We want ceasefire” and “We want Peace”.

The peace marches began in May 2018 when a handful of civilians travelled 700 kilometres (430 miles) from Lashkar Gah, in the southern province of Helmand, to end their journey in June in the capital Kabul, joined along the way by hundreds of other marchers.

Since then, many others have been organised, including a wheelchair peace march by amputeesbetween the western city of Herat and Kabul in August.

“Afghans want an absolute ceasefire as soon as possible. The government had agreed a one-year ceasefire and the Taliban must accept their demand,” Bismillah Watandost, a member of the People for Peace Movement, told AFP.

“We call on the Taliban to come to the peace talks with the Afghan government and have mercy on the Afghan people. Our men, women, children and widows want peace. We are tired of war,” said Haji Farhad, a protestor in Jalalabad.

Diplomatic efforts are being stepped up to try to end the long-running conflict.

The US envoy in Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad is currently in Pakistan for talks after a regional tour that took him to China, the United Arab Emirates, India and Afghanistan.

Khalilzad, a former US ambassador to Kabul, said in the Afghan capital on Wednesday he hopes for fresh talks with the Taliban “very soon”, after meetings with them in late 2018 in Doha and Abu Dhabi.

The United States is not alone in its diplomatic overtures to the Taliban.

Russia and Iran have also held meetings with the militants in recent months and China has also invited them for discussions.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Pakistan are participating in the US peace efforts.

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