Afghan government negotiators were expected to head to Doha on Friday for long-delayed peace talks with the Taliban that could begin as soon as the weekend, officials said. The development comes as a final hurdle to talks starting — the fate of six Taliban prisoners linked to the killings of French and Australian civilians and troops — appeared to have been resolved.
“We have been told to be prepared to leave for Doha tomorrow,” Hafiz Mansour, a member of the Afghan negotiating team, told AFP on Thursday. Speaking on condition of anonymity, an Afghan government official also said the delegation from Kabul would leave for Doha on Friday.
Intra-Afghan talks to commence at Doha
No date has been announced for talks to start but they are widely expected to begin over the weekend. A Taliban official and the government official told AFP talks would commence Saturday.
Peace talks were delayed for six months as the Taliban and Kabul conducted a US-backed prisoner exchange. The Taliban released 1,000 Afghan troops, while Kabul freed 5,000 insurgents.
Paris and Canberra had objected to the freeing of six militants tied to killing French and Australian nationals, but a compromise appears to have been struck by sending the insurgents into custody in Qatar.
Afghan republic negotiators slowly arriving at the airport for the flight to Doha where direct negotiations expected tomorrow.
Dr. Abdullah spokesman @Khwazoon says all preparation in place; they are going with the expectation of a “lasting ceasefire” coming out of talks. pic.twitter.com/9y15KCKmsR
— Mujib Mashal (@MujMash) September 11, 2020
Militants tied to the killing of French and Australian nationals
“The six prisoners are at the airport waiting to be flown (to Qatar),” the Taliban official said. The Afghan government official also said the six were en route to Doha, noting the issue “had been resolved”.
Another Taliban source in Pakistan said the six had been flown out of Kabul on board a special plane to Qatar. The six include a former Afghan soldier charged with the killing of five French soldiers and injuring 13 others in 2012.
Another former Afghan soldier who murdered three Australia troops is also among the six. The Taliban official said another two Taliban prisoners who murdered Frenchwoman Bettina Goislard, an employee of the UN refugee agency, had been released in Afghanistan’s Wardak province. Their release had also been initially opposed by Goislard’s family and Paris. The Afghan government did not immediately confirm the claim.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk