Northern Ireland lessons shared in Afghanistan

Jeffrey Donaldson Jeffrey Donaldson said key lessons could be learned from Northern Ireland

Two Northern Ireland politicians have been sharing their experiences of the country's peace process with the Afghan government.

The DUP's Jeffrey Donaldson and the SDLP's Denis Haughey spoke at a conference organised by the Afghan High Peace Council.

The council was set up by President Hamid Karzai to move forward the country's peace process.

Mr Donaldson said they shared good and bad lessons from Northern Ireland.

"The message we brought from Northern Ireland is that no matter how difficult it is, it's important the peace process is inclusive and that you open the door to people who have previously been engaged in armed conflict provided that they bring their violence to an end," he said.

"We were able to share with the Afghans some of our experiences of the Northern Ireland peace process.

"That included things that we got wrong, as well those parts that we got right."

Mr Donaldson said they did not "pretend that the Northern Ireland peace process is a template for a solution in Afghanistan".

"But we do believe that there are key lessons that can be drawn from our situation that might be able to benefit the Afghans as they seek to find a way forward," he said.

"We highlighted the Mitchell Principles of democracy and non-violence as being the basis on which people entered the negotiations in Northern Ireland.

"We got a very positive response from the people we met over the two and a half days of our visit and we've been invited to come back again and spend more time with the High Peace Council."

The UK, along with its Nato partners, will pull combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

Talks between the Taliban and Afghan government have not yet begun, however, efforts are being made to draw them toward peace talks.

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