Afghanistan contact group holds first formal talks with Taliban

By: Lailuma Noori

Afghanistan government and Taliban representatives have held the first formal talks through a video conference, discussing different issues, especially the release of prisoners.
In a statement issued by National Security Council (NSC) said the Peace Initial Contact Group (PICG) of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan met virtually with Taliban representatives.
“All sides emphasized the importance of a reduction in violence, direct negotiations, and a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire,” the statement said.
Spokesman of Taliban Qatar political Suhail Shaheen confirmed on twitter that Taliban’s technical team for the release of prisoners talked with a technical team of Afghan government in the presence of US and Qatari delegations via video conference.
US Special Representative for Afghan Reconciliation  tweeted that  US and Qatar facilitated the first Afghan government to Taliban technical talks on prisoner releases, via Skype video conferencing.
He said all the sides conveyed their strong commitment to a reduction of violence, intra-Afghan negotiations, and a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire. 
He said the US and Taliban had also agreed to a follow-on technical meeting in the next two days.
The US had agreed in peace agreement with Taliban that the Afghan government would release 5000 Taliban on March 10. The Afghan government, however, said they had not made any such commitment with the Taliban. Later, President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani ordered the conditional release of Taliban prisoners. Taliban, however, rejected the conditional and phase wise release of their prisoners.
On the other hand, Taliban is not committed to complete reduction of violence, meaning ceasefire in the country. Therefore, all are afraid of releasing all prisoners of the Taliban group by Afghanistan government as Taliban may send them back to the battlefields to fight against the government and people.
Possible releasing of 5,000 prisoners of the group is an issue that has been agreed between US and Taliban. Now, the government of Afghanistan should change the issue of releasing the prisoners to a nation issue and assess it in accordance to the country’s long-term peace and reconciliation interests. President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani had first declared that Afghanistan had not made any commitment to releasing of the Taliban prisoners, but later on he had said that he’s found a mechanism for releasing the prisoners; therefore, he issued a decree that Taliban prisoners would be released in a range of stages.
Nevertheless, Taliban has not accepted and said they want unconditional release of its fighters based on agreement of peace deal with the US side.
It is worth mentioning that the government’s peace initiative contact team had been invited by Qatar government to hold talks with Taliban negotiators about the release of their fighters and reduction of violence in the country. The team had met with US special peace envoy for Afghanistan, UN special representative to Afghanistan, and officials of Qatar government, Norway, Germany and other countries in Qatar.

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