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President Ghani says Afghan government fulfilled all commitments for Taliban peace talks

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Members of Afghan delegations attend the second day of the Intra-Afghan Dialogue talks in the Qatari capital, Doha, on July 8, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani says the government has fulfilled all its commitments for peace negotiations with the Taliban.

“The government has fulfilled all its commitments in the peace process that the international community had hoped for,” the president said at a meeting with a team of government-backed negotiators at the presidential palace on Wednesday, his office reported.

On Monday, Kabul resumed the release of Taliban prisoners, a pre-condition to negotiations.

“The release of Taliban prisoners is a clear demonstration of the government's commitment to peace.”

Afghanistan’s Loya Jirga, or grand assembly of elders, has already approved the release of 400 imprisoned Taliban militants, who had been involved in serious crimes in Afghanistan, for the sake of peace talks.

A senior government official, who asked not to be named, told AFP on Wednesday that at least 200 inmates have been freed since Monday and the process “will continue today too.”

In return, the Taliban have freed four Afghan commandos and are expected to release two more on Wednesday, according to a Taliban official.

Meanwhile, Ghani's spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said in a posting on Twitter, “We expect the Taliban to live up to their commitments on the release of the remaining captives.”

The prisoner swap was agreed to in a deal between the Taliban and the United States. The agreement was signed in the Qatari capital, Doha, on February 29.

Under the deal, the Taliban agreed to halt their attacks on international forces in return for the US military’s phased withdrawal from Afghanistan and the prisoner exchange with the government in Kabul.

The Afghan government, which was not a signatory to the accord, was required to release up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners. The militants, for their part, were obliged to free 1,000 government captives.

Ghani said a “critical stage of peace” had been reached, noting that the talks would help reduce violence and finalize a permanent ceasefire.

Meanwhile, Kabul has dispatched a "small technical team" to Qatar to prepare for negotiations.

Najia Anwari, spokeswoman for the State Ministry for Peace Affairs, told AFP that the government’s negotiators will also leave for Doha “very soon.”

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