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  • The Taliban had previously refused to speak to the Afghan government until all prisoners were released.

    The Taliban had previously refused to speak to the Afghan government until all prisoners were released. | Photo: EFE

Published 22 March 2020

The two sides spoke for over two hours in a Skype meeting facilitated by the United States and Qatar, officials said.

Afghanistan’s Taliban and the current government held a “virtual” meeting on prisoner releases Sunday, officials reported, breathing life back into the nascent peace process.

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The two sides spoke for over two hours in a Skype meeting facilitated by the United States and Qatar, officials said.

“Prisoner releases by both sides is an important step in the peace process, as stated in the U.S.-Taliban agreement,” U.S. special representative Zalmay Khalilzad tweeted.

“Everyone clearly understands the coronavirus threat makes prisoner releases that much more urgent,” he said, adding that “all sides conveyed their strong commitment to a reduction of violence, intra-Afghan negotiations, and a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire.”

The Taliban had previously refused to speak to the Afghan government until all prisoners were released.

This comes as the recently sworn-in President Ashraf Ghani issued a decree ordering the release of 1,500 Taliban insurgents, which presidential spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said was the first of two phases of releasing 5,000 Taliban prisoners in order to secure the commencement of intra-Afghan negotiations. 

The other 3,500 are to be freed after negotiations begin, on the condition that there is a tangible reduction in violence, according to the four-article pardon decree.

Afghanistan’s Taliban rejected the proposal from Ghani to release prisoners in phases arguing that the "conditional release" of the Taliban prisoners is against the accord signed with the U.S.

The Taliban had previously refused to speak to the Afghan government until all prisoners were released.

“Both sides exchanged options on initial technical steps for the release of prisoners,” an Afghanistan National Security Council statement said, adding that a reduction in violence, direct talks, as well as a permanent ceasefire, were also discussed. A claim rejected by the insurgents’ spokesperson in Qatar.

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