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Afghan peace team reaches Qatar ahead of tough peace talks with Taliban

All obstacles on path toward peace have removed and prisoners swap process to complete soon: Official

Taliban calls on foreign countries not to interfere into internal affairs of Afghanistan.

By Mujeeb R. Awrang

KABUL: The Afghan peace team would soon arrive in Doha, the capital city of Qatar, for a tough peace talks with the Taliban negotiating members—an Afghan-to-Afghan talks that has been delayed several times.

The High Council for National Reconciliation said that the government negotiation team would visit Qatar on Thursday. The Taliban has maintained political office in Qatar’s capital Doha since 2013. 

The development was made after the US National Security Advisor, Robert C. O’Brien in a phone call with President Ashraf Ghani, urged the immediate start of the intra-Afghan negotiations.

He called for immediate start of the peace talks without any further delay.

President Ashraf Ghani’s Spokesman, Sediq Sediqqi in a tweet said that President Ghani and Chairman of the Reconciliation Council, Abdullah Abdullah on Wednesday met with the negotiation team and talked about the peace process and intra-Afghan negotiations.

All hurdles on the path of the peace process were removed and that the intra-Afghan negotiations would be kicked off soon, Spokesman for the Reconciliation Council, Faridon Khawzon said.

The government and Taliban have resumed the prisoner release process to lay out the intra-Afghan talks.

Both the Afghan government and the Taliban were stating allegations against each other and seemed reluctant to start direct negotiations. The Taliban said that it would set in talks with the Kabul negotiation team after the government released its 400 prisoners, whom the government said are charged with big crimes.

President Ghani had recently in a Consultative Loya Jirga comprised of 3,200 representatives from across the country has agreed to release hardcore Taliban prisoners.

However, the government didn’t free 400 Taliban prisoners, saying that the Taliban should first free 20 Afghan commandos and pilots the group held.

Among these dangerous prisoners, there are some Taliban members who were involved in killing foreign troops and civilians.

France and Australia demanded the Afghan government not to release those prisoners who killed and wounded a number of French and Australian citizens and soldiers.

But, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, Chief of Taliban’s negotiating team said that France and Australia should not interfere into internal affairs of Afghanistan.

But since Monday, the Afghan government has released 200 hardcore Taliban prisoners, and the Taliban also freed a number of Afghan security forces.

“Exchange of the prisoners is a two-way process and the government is closely assessing each step at the process,” Sediqqi confirmed on Wednesday.

He said that the government expected the Taliban to remain on its commitments regarding the release of the remaining Afghan security forces.

But a source privy to the issue, who was talking on condition of anonymity, said that the release of remaining Taliban prisoners would be completed by today (Thursday).

On Monday evening, the government freed 47 Taliban prisoners from Pul-e-Charkhi prison and some other inmates from other prisons in the country. In return the Taliban has also released 28 Afghan security forces including commandos and pilots.

The resumption of the prisoners swap was welcomed by political figures, including former President Hamid Karzai, calling it a “good and important step” towards the Afghan peace process.

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