Abdullah says peace talks next week; Taliban issue strong denial

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KABUL: The Chairman of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation on Thursday said the long-anticipated intra-Afghan talks would begin next week; however, the Taliban refuted that possibility.


Addressing an event in Kabul, Abdullah stated that the Afghan government team was fully prepared for the negotiations with the Taliban.


The all-Afghan talks which will bring together representatives of both the Taliban and the Afghan government are expected to take place in the Qatari capital Doha and are most likely to focus on a ceasefire. 


But the militant group’s chief negotiator, Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, was quoted by Reuters as saying that no peace talks were planned with Afghan officials for early September.


This comes as the talks, which were due to start early this month, have been stalled until an indefinite period following President Ashraf Ghani’s reluctance to implement his own decree regarding freeing the remaining 400 contentious Taliban inmates – out of whom only 80 have been set free so far.  


About 5,000 Taliban prisoners have already been freed but the release of the last batch, which is deemed hardcore and guilty of heavy crimes, has been problematic. Some foreign countries have expressed objections in this regard and the Afghan government reasons that several Afghan commandoes are still being held by the insurgent group.


During his address, Abdullah did not, however, say whether the prisoner release issue has been resolved or will the rest of the 320 hard-core Taliban inmates be released by next week.