Taliban prisoners about to be released, July 31, 2020 in Kabul. - WAKIL KOHSAR / AFP

Last obstacle lifted for negotiations between the Afghan state and the Taliban? The insurgents said on Monday that they were ready to engage in peace talks with the Afghan government "in the week following" the release of 400 prisoners.

"Our position is clear, if the prisoners are released, then we will be ready for inter-Afghan talks in the week to follow," Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told AFP, adding that the first round of talks would have held in Doha.

A decree signed by the president

After three days of discussions, a large Afghan assembly, made up of thousands of dignitaries, state officials and tribal leaders, has just accepted the principle of the release of 400 Taliban prisoners accused of serious crimes, which removes an obstacle to the launch of negotiations . "Today, I will sign a decree to release the remaining 400 prisoners," Afghan President Ashraf Ghani confirmed on Sunday.

"The Afghan government will begin releasing 400 Taliban prisoners within two days," National Security Council spokesperson Javid Fasial told AFP. Suhail Shaheen said the Taliban delegation would be led by Abbas Stanekzai, the Taliban's chief negotiator in talks with Washington that preceded the agreement signed in February. The releases of prisoners were a key point in this historic agreement between Washington and the Taliban for a withdrawal of American troops by mid-2021 in exchange for a commitment by the Taliban to engage in inter-Afghan negotiations.

5,000 prisoners already released

"We are about to start peace negotiations," said Abdullah Abdullah, the government official responsible for the talks, on Sunday. "Inter-Afghan discussions should begin two or three days after the release of the 400 Taliban prisoners," said ex-president Hamid Karzai (2001-2014).

The future of the prisoners represents a crucial stake in the opening of negotiations, the two camps having engaged in an exchange of prisoners which must precede these discussions. Kabul has already released nearly 5,000 Taliban prisoners, but the Afghan authorities had so far refused to release the last 400 captives claimed by the insurgents. Some are indeed involved in deadly attacks killing Afghans and foreigners, including several French.


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