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Doha talks delayed over potential release of six Taliban prisoners

Doha talks delayed over potential release of six Taliban prisoners

Aug 15, 2020 - 19:25

KABULinfo-icon (Pajhwok): Intra-Afghan talks between the government and the Talibaninfo-icon, which were scheduled to begin tomorrow (August 16) in Qatar, have been postponed indefinitely due to international outcry over the release of six rebel prisoners.

However, a government source told Pajhwok Afghan News that the government peace negotiating team was expected to travel to Doha on Tuesday, blaming the delay of talks on international criticism over the potential release of six Taliban prisoners.

About five days ago, Australian prime minister Scott Morrison said he pressed US president Donald Trump for help to prevent the release of an Afghan man convicted of murdering three Australian soldiers in Afghanistaninfo-icon.

The prime minister said the Australian government would continue to push “as hard as we can” for the continued detention of the former Afghan soldier known as Hekmatullah, after reports he could be released as a result of peace negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

Hekmatullah was convicted of murdering three Australian soldiers – Corporal Stjepan Milosevic, Private Robert Poate and Sapper James Martin – as they played cards at a patrol base north of Tarin Kowt in August 2012.

The Afghan government initially refused to release the 400 hardcore Taliban prisoners, but President Ghani signed a decree to release them after recommended to do so by the Consultative Loya Jirgainfo-icon.

The government released 80 of the 400 prisoners the previous night.

The Kabul administration says it is ready for intra-Afghan talks and now it is up to the Taliban to start the parlays soon.

Presidential spokesman Sadiq Sadiqi told Pajhwok Afghan News that the government negotiation team was ready as its logistical process had been completed.

In order to remove hurdles to the start of intra-Afghan talks, acting foreign minister Mohammad Hanif Atmar telephoned the Qatari prime minister and foreign minister.

Atmar spoke to the Qatari leaders yesterday, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Garan Hewad. He said the two sides discussed the decisions of the Loya Jirga, the release of Taliban prisoners, intra-Afghan talks and bilateral ties.

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said that some government officials recently made statements against the ground realities regarding the start of intra-Afghan talks and the release of Taliban prisoners.

President Ashraf Ghani recently said his administration and the Afghan nation took a series of calculated risks for the sake of bringing peace and stability to the country.

 

“The Afghan people want peace. This has been our constant demand and foremost priority for four decades, an entire lifetime for most of us,” he wrote in an opinion piece that appeared in The Washington Post on Saturday.

Mujahid said the Taliban had never been a threat to any foreign country nor they would pose any threat in future.

Mujahid also referred to the presidential spokesperson’s statement and said calling the upcoming talks as intra-Afghan was incorrect as the talks would be held between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

“We are ready for talks that involve all concerned Afghan sides and are dubbed as intra-Afghan talks in the Doha Agreement, he said.”

But Presidential Spokesperson Sediq Sediqi said that the Taliban should understand the reality of the present day Afghanistan.

He said the Taliban’s main opposition party in the talks was the Islamic Republic that represented the majority people of Afghanistan. He said the Taliban recent remarks were merely a pretext to waste time.

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