Ready for Afghan peace talks after prisoner release completed: Taliban - GulfToday

Ready for Afghan peace talks after prisoner release completed: Taliban


Taliban prisoners greet each other as they are in the process of being potentially released from Pul-e-Charkhi prison. AFP

Long-awaited peace negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban were expected to start in Qatar within a week once the final batch of Taliban prisoners were released, the US special envoy and Afghan government sources said on Monday.


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The government accepted the advice of a loya jirga, a grand assembly of elders, on Sunday to release 400 "hard-core" Taliban prisoners, paving the way for talks aimed at ending a war that has ground on since US-backed Afghan forces ousted a Taliban government in late 2001.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani attends a meeting. File photo

A government source told Reuters that President Ashraf Ghani would likely sign the decree to release the prisoners later on Monday.

"Everyone is waiting for Ghani to sign on the decree. The original plan is to travel to Doha on Wednesday and the talks will begin on Sunday," the source said.

US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who reached an agreement with the Taliban in February for the withdrawal of the last US troops, welcomed the progress, having spent months trying to bring the militant movement to the negotiating table with the government.

"In the next few days, we expect the completion of prisoner releases, then travel of the Islamic Republic team to Doha, & from there the immediate start of intra-Afghan negotiations," he said on Twitter.

US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad speaks with the media. File photo

The Taliban said Monday they were ready to hold peace talks with the Afghan government "within a week" of a contentious prisoner exchange being completed.

"Our stance is clear, if the prisoner release is completed, then we are ready for the intra-Afghan talks within a week," Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told AFP, adding that the first round of talks will be held in Doha, Qatar.

Thousands of prominent Afghans on Sunday agreed to the release of about 400 Taliban prisoners accused of serious offences, overcoming a key hurdle in starting negotiations.


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