Taliban ready for peace talks after prisoners' release

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Suhail Shaheen, spokesman for the Taliban. — File photo
Suhail Shaheen, spokesman for the Taliban. — File photo

KABUL — The Taliban on Monday expressed a willingness to hold peace talks with the Afghan government after a contentious prisoner exchange, which authorities said would begin in the next two days.

“Our stance is clear, if the prisoner release is completed, then we are ready for the intra-Afghan talks within a week,” Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said, adding that the first round of talks will be held in Doha, Qatar.

A meeting of thousands of prominent Afghans agreed on Sunday to release hundreds of Taliban prisoners accused of serious offences, overcoming a key hurdle in starting negotiations.

“The Afghan government will start releasing the 400 Taliban prisoners within two days,” National Security Council spokesman Javid Fasial said.

Shaheen said the Taliban delegation would be led by Abbas Stanekzai, who was the group’s chief negotiator in talks with Washington ahead of a landmark withdrawal deal signed in February.

The prisoner exchange was a key part of the February deal, which saw Washington agree to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan in return for a pledge from the Taliban to hold peace talks with the Kabul government.

The long-delayed peace talks pushed by Washington are aimed at ending the almost two decades old conflict in the country that has killed tens of thousands of people. — Agencies


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