Prisoner swap will end soon: Afghan peace council

Kabul, Sep 2 (IANS) An official of Afghanistan's High Council for National Reconciliation has said that the prisoner swap process with the Taliban will end soon, paving the way for the much-awaited talks between the militant group and the Kabul government.

“All obstacles ahead of the intra-Afghan talks have been removed. The prisoner swap process will end soon and intra-Afghan talks will begin,” TOLO News reported on Wednesday citing Council spokesman Fraidoon Khwazoon as saying.

He added that Afghanistan's negotiation team is fully prepared for the trip to Doha where the talks are likely to take place.

Meanwhile, eight of the 320 controversial Taliban prisoners, which were still being held by the Afghan government, have been released from the Kandahar prison in an effort to help start the talks.

Reports have suggested that more than 200 of the 320 have been released in the past three days, and that the remaining prisoners will be released soon.

On Tuesday, US National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien on Tuesday in a phone call with President Ashraf Ghani called for a swift start to the intra-Afghan talks, reports TOLO News.

“The US stands with the Afghan security forces who have made tremendous sacrifices for the Afghan people,” said O'Brien.

Meanwhile, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, the Taliban's chief negotiator, has called on Australia and France not to interfere in Afghanistan's internal affairs.

Both countries have asked the Afghan government not to release prisoners who are accused of killing their citizens.

The Afghan government has also demanded the release of 22 security personnel held by the Taliban.

The intra-Afghan talks were expected to begin 10 days after the February 29 peace deal between the US and the Taliban.



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