Kabul, Aug 26 (efe-epa).- The Taliban Wednesday called on the Afghan government to start the intra-Afghan talks to discuss “a permanent ceasefire and peace” in the country, stressing that a further delay in talks would only cause more bloodshed.
The peace talks, as per an agreement between the United States and the Taliban in Doha in late February, have been delayed by more than five months due to a disagreement over a prisoner swap deal that was a precondition for the process.
“We request the opposite side (Afghan government) to release the remaining prisoners and come to the negotiation table as soon as possible,” Sher Muhammad Abbas Stanekzai, Taliban’s chief negotiator and head of the Taliban negotiation team for the talks, said in an interview with Azamm, a Taliban associated news webpage.
Last week, the Afghan authorities freed 80 of the 400 prisoners remaining under its custody as part of the prisoner swap deal in which 5,000 Taliban fighters would be released in exchange for 1,000 government personnel. The Taliban had already completed its part of the swap on Jul.30.
Stanekzai directly calling on the Afghan government to come to the negotiation table marks an apparent policy shift by the Taliban in the peace talks.
Earlier the rebels had often said they would only accept Afghan government as one of the several political sides or parties in the negotiations and not as the main party for the negotiations.
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed to EFE that the remarks by Stanekzai were the “official stance” of the Taliban.
Stanekzai said Taliban were looking to form an Islamic and “broad based and Afghan inclusive” government that was acceptable for most of the Afghan people.
Stanekzai in the interview confirmed their supreme leader, Mullah Hibatullah Akhund has formed and approved a 21-member team for intra-Afghan negotiations which will be led by Stanekzai himself.
“Amirul-Momineen has formed and approved negotiation team for intra-Afghan talks. I am appointed as head of this team, 20 more persons are part of it,” he underlined.
Stanekzai said the “last obstacle” for starting the intra-Afghan talks was the around 300 remaining prisoners who were yet to be released. “Whenever this prisoner release is completed then intra-Afghan talks will begin.”
While both sides have been signaling the impending commencement of the talks, scheduled to be held in Qatar, no exact date for it has been decided yet. EFE-EPA