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Khalilzad, Afghans will suffer if peace fails

Khalilzad Shows Optimism for Intra-Afghan Talks

KABUL – US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad on Monday expressed optimism that the Afghan government and the Taliban will begin peace talks.
“We are in a good place,” Khalilzad said speaking to reporters. “The road ahead…will have challenges and difficulties, but we’re optimistic that finally we are moving forward to the start of the intra-Afghan negotiations.”
He said that the date and the location are two of the issues that “we’re very much focused on right nowamong other issues regarding intra-Afghan negotiations.”
Khalilzad said the Afghan government has freed 2,400 to 2,500 Taliban prisoners since that pact was reached and the militant group has freed more than 400 government detainees in return.
He suggested that further prisoner releases were needed before intra-Afghan talks can begin.
Khalilzad also noted that the level of violence remained relatively low since the three-day Eid ceasefire, hoping it will remain so.
“We are hoping that violence will stay low so with the release of prisoners we can begin the intra-Afghan negotiations,” Khalilzad said.
Under the US-Taliban deal signed in February 29, up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners and up to 1,000 government prisoners should be released before intra-Afghan talks.
The envoy sought to play down an independent UN experts report that ties between the Taliban and al Qaeda remain close despite the Taliban’s pledge to cut such links.
“We have a monitoring group that monitors in detail what’s happening with regard to their commitments, the Talib commitments on terrorism, not only vis-a-vis groups such as al-Qaida but also on Daesh or ISIS,” Khalilzad said. “We believe that there is progress, but we will continue to monitor those activities very closely.”
(Sahar News)

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