U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a joint press conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, on July 12, 2014. The Afghan presidential election standoff was ended after two days intense talks between two presidential candidates and the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. (Xinhua/Ahmad Massoud)
KABUL, July 13 (Xinhua) -- The Afghan presidential election standoff was ended after two days of intense talks between two rival presidential candidates and visiting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
Kerry during a joint press conference late on Saturday with two runners announced that all ballots cast during the June 14 presidential runoff will be audited as the two runners, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and Abdullah Abdullah, reached an agreement to audit all votes and, whoever the victor, to form a unity government.
"First, with the respect to the election both candidates have committed to participate in and to abide by the results of the largest, most comprehensive audit. Every single ballot that was cast will be audited 100 percent," the top U.S. diplomat said.
"This is the strongest possible signal by the both candidates to restore the legitimacy on the process and the Afghan democracy, " he said.
He said the two candidates and President Hamid Karzai are committed to compromise. "They have supported constitutional process."
This audit will be conducted in accordance with a highest international standard, Kerry told reporters at the briefing, also attended by UN secretary-general's special envoy for Afghanistan Jan Kubis.
"Second, the audit will be carried out in Kabul, and will begin in 24 hours. It will start with the ballot boxes which currently located here, and ballot boxes in provinces will be transported to Kabul by ISAF (International Security Assistance Forces) and secured by ISAF and Afghan national security forces," Kerry said.
Afghanistan's third presidential election since 2001 was held on April 5 where eight politicians contested the race with two front-runners -- Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai -- to go for the runoff.
Preliminary results of the June 14 presidential runoff announced by the election commission on July 7 showed Ashraf Ghani garnered 56.44 percent of more than 8 million votes while Abdullah secured 43.56 percent.
The controversial polls had faced a deadlock after Abdullah, who bagged 45 percent of 7 million votes in the April 5 polls, as against 31.6 percent by Ghani Ahmadzai, has accused the election commission of siding with Ghani Ahmadzai, saying any decision of the election body is unacceptable unless the clean votes are filtered from the fake ones.
The top U.S. diplomat also said that since the audit process would take a couple of weeks, "we request to postponed the inauguration process" initially set on Aug. 2.