CHANTILLY – The Taliban and Afghan government appeared one on foreign troops’ withdrawal from the country at the conclusion of a three-day conference held in Paris on Saturday.

The stance of the Taliban delegation was that sustainable peace in Afghanistan could be established only with the exit of NATO forces.

Besides, all the stakeholders had a consensus on the dire need of peace in Afghanistan and deliberated on the possibility of ending the war. Although the stakeholders expressed consent over the exit of foreign forces from the country, but there appeared some differences over how these troops could be withdrawn and at what pace. Nevertheless, the Taliban stance was that foreign forces immediately and completely leave Afghanistan.

The Taliban also called for a new constitution as a pre-condition for them joining the nation’s fledgling peace process, according to a declaration issued by representatives at a landmark meeting in France.

Representatives from the country’s warring factions met Thursday for two days of talks that diplomats hope will bolster relations in the war-torn country.

It is the first time since a US-led bombing campaign drove the Taliban from power in 2001 that senior representatives have sat down with officials from the government and other opposition groups to discuss the country’s future, in a meeting brokered by a French think tank.

The meeting was organised by the Foundation for Strategic Research (FRS). The closed-door conference in a secluded château north of Paris brought together authorised representatives of Taliban chief Mullah Omar and some of his leading Afghan foes for informal discussions.

In France, the Taliban were represented by their senior figures Shahabuddin Dilawar and Naeem Wardak, a move seen as a sign that the Islamist group is contemplating going beyond exploratory discussions.

“Afghanistan’s present constitution has no value for us because it was made under the shadows of B52 bombers of the invaders,” said the declaration, which was handed to participants during the meeting and later released to the media. “Islamic Emirate, for the welfare of their courageous nation, needs a constitution that is based on the principles of the holy religion of Islam, national interest, historical achievements, and social justice,” it read.

Despite the landmark meeting, the Taliban’s declaration continued to display a lack of trust in the government. “The invaders and their friends don’t have a clear roadmap for peace,” it stated. “Sometimes they say we want to talk to the Islamic Emirate, but sometimes they say we will talk with Pakistan. This kind of vague stance will never get to peace,” it said.

Taliban representatives outlined their political demands and said they don’t seek to govern the country on their own once US forces withdraw.

On Friday night, the Taliban broke protocol and distributed the lengthy declaration that their delegates, Shahabuddin Dilawar and Mohammed Naim, made at the meeting.

While sticking to many familiar Taliban themes, the declaration offered unusual insights into what role the Taliban see for themselves once US-led coalition forces depart in late 2014. The Taliban statement called for an inclusive government and gave the broad outlines of a possible political settlement to end the war. The Taliban delegates rejected those overtures, saying that the 2014 elections would “not be a useful process for the solution of the Afghan problem” because they are being planned under foreign occupation.

By framing the rejection in those terms, instead of hailing the superiority of an Islamic emirate over democracy, the Taliban left open the possibility of joining the political fray after 2014. “Mullah Omar has frequently insisted that we do not seek a monopoly on political power, and we want a government of all Afghans in our beloved country,” the Taliban’s declaration at Chantilly said.

The delegates from Kabul, a participant said, were “pleasantly surprised” by the Taliban’s call for the respect of human rights and political freedoms, even though many of the Kabul-based politicians rejected the Taliban demand for all foreign forces to leave in 2014.

A US State Department spokesman, Patrick Ventrell, declined to comment on specific Taliban proposals in Chantilly. He noted that the US didn’t participate in the event, which was sponsored by a French think tank, and the discussions were unofficial, but he made clear the US endorsed the effort.

The Taliban delegates said the constitution should guarantee “civil, personal and political rights” and be “approved by the people”—a nod to a possible referendum. They cautioned, however, that the new constitution shouldn’t have “a single article against Islamic values, national interests and Afghan culture.” The current constitution, which the US and Mr Karzai have long said the Taliban must accept, states that “no law in Afghanistan can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam.”

The participant from Kabul said he thought the Taliban objected not so much to the content of the current constitution as to its political origins.

Some of the leading ethnic Tajik and Hazara politicians from the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance who are participated in the Chantilly meeting have called for constitutional changes that would devolve power to the regions. It isn’t clear whether the Taliban, who have traditionally advocated a strong central government, would endorse such devolution.

The Taliban also spoke about the need to stop domestic violence against Afghan women and proclaimed their belief in women’s rights. There was an important caveat, however: The Taliban said they would “protect women’s rights in a way that doesn’t…harm the human and Islamic values under the banner of education and work.”