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US calls on Afghan sides to accelerate peace efforts

By Rafiullah Anwari

KABUL: The US special envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad once again called on the Afghan warring sides to accelerate efforts for peace and engage into direct negotiations.

In a series of tweet on Saturday, Khalilzad condemned the attack on a member of government peace negotiation team, Fawzia Koofi, who is also a former parliamentarian. “A cowardly and criminal act by those who seek to delay and disrupt the Afghan peace process,” he added. “I call on all sides who seek peace to not only condemn the attack but to accelerate the peace process and start intra-Afghan negotiations.”

The US envoy cited the remarks after hopes on the beginning of the intra-Afghan negotiations were increased as the government started the release of the 400 controversial Taliban prisoners, who were charged with major crimes such as murdering, robbery and sexual assault alleged crimes.

A tradition assembly “Consultative Loya Jirga” convened by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani approved the suggestion to release these dangerous prisoners to lay out intra-Afghan negotiations that could perhaps lead to a ceasefire and peace deal between the government and Taliban. Ghani said the decision to let free the 400 the rest of the 5,000 Taliban prisoners, out of his authority. The release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in return for the 1,000 Afghan security forces was agreed in a US preliminary peace deal with the Taliban on February 29th.

Last week, the government announced that it has freed the first batch which included 80 prisoners of the controversial 400 militants.

But despite the decision of the Loya Jirga and Ghani’s commitment to release these prisoners, the government has not freed all inmates by far.

Earlier, sources privy to the issue in the government said that the intra-Afghan negotiations were set to be held on mid-August but the negotiations has been delayed, as the release of the 400 Taliban prisoners faced hurdles again.

The war in Afghanistan has owned a complicated shape; the terrorist attacks and clashes between the Afghan security forces and militants are still on rise, with the government and Taliban’ spokesmen state allegations against each other and declaration of autonomy.

The Taliban said that its representatives in Qatar would set for direct talks with the government delegation after the release of its all prisoners.

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