Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his rival Abdullah Abdullah signed a power-sharing deal on Sunday, signalling the end of a months-long stalemate that plunged the country into a political crisis.
The breakthrough, which sees Abdullah heading peace talks with the Taliban, comes as Afghanistan battles a rapid spread of the deadly coronavirus and surging violence that saw dozens killed in brutal attacks last week.
Images released by the presidential palace showed Abdullah and Ghani sitting side-by-side for the signing ceremony, while leading Afghan figures, including former president Hamid Karzai, looked on.
Ghani said it was a “historic day” for Afghanistan and the agreement was reached without any international mediation.
“We will share the burden and our shoulders, God willing, will be lighter,” he said, addressing Abdullah at the signing ceremony broadcast on a state-run television channel.
“In the days ahead, we hope that with unity and cooperation, we would be able to first pave the ground for a ceasefire and then lasting peace.”
Abdullah said the deal commits to forming a “more inclusive, accountable and competent administration”.
“It’s meant to ensure a path to peace, improve governance, protect rights, respect laws and values, he said on Twitter after signing the deal.
Abdullah’s spokesman, Fraidoon Khawzoon told AFP news agency the agreement ensures Abdullah’s group gets 50 percent of the cabinet and other provincial governors’ posts.
Abdullah had previously served as Afghanistan’s “chief executive” under an earlier power-sharing deal but lost that post after he was defeated in a presidential election that the incumbent Ghani won in September.
But Abdullah rejected the election results, alleging fraud. He declared himself president and held his own swearing-in ceremony on March 9, the day Ghani was reinstalled as president.