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Intra-Afghan talks expected in days

Intra-Afghan Peace Talks Expected in Days

KABUL – Long-awaited intra-Afghan negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban are expected to start in Doha, Qatar within a week once the final 400 Taliban prisoners have been released.
“We are ready to sit for talks within a week from when we see our prisoners released. We are ready,” Taliban spokesperson, Suhail Shaheen, told Reuters on Monday.
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.
Meanwhile, in an interview with BBC Pashto on Sunday, Shaheen said the Taliban negotiating team will be led by Abbas Stanikzai, the former chief negotiator for the Taliban during talks with the United States.
Asked about a ceasefire, called for by the Loya Jirga on Sunday, Shaheen said: “The ceasefire is part of the intra-Afghan negotiations agenda that will be discussed there. It has been mentioned in the Doha agreement.”
Shaheen said the group wanted peace but criticized the delay in the prisoner release process by the Afghan government.
He also stated that the group will continue to adhere to its commitments made during the signing of the US-Taliban agreement in Doha earlier this year.
US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who cemented the agreement with the Taliban in February for the prisoner release campaign along with the withdrawal of US troops, on Monday also welcomed the Loya Jirga’s decision to release the remaining 400 prisoners.
He also said that intra-Afghan talks would commence soon.
In a series of posts on Twitter, Khalilzad said: “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.”
“The parties will embark on a process to reach an agreement on a political roadmap & a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire to end the Afghan war,” he tweeted.
The release of the 400 hardcore prisoners had been a stumbling block in the way of peace talks in the past month. President Ashraf Ghani has so far released over 4,600 Taliban prisoners in accordance with the Doha agreement but was wary of releasing the remaining group.
However, this weekend’s Loya Jirga unanimously voted in favor of releasing the prisoners so that peace talks could start between the two parties.
(Sahar News)

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