Afghanistan peace talks begin on Saturday

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The historic peace talks between the Taliban and Kabul, delayed for more than six months, will start on Saturday in Qatar in an attempt to end nearly 19 years of conflict between the two sides in Afghanistan.

• Read also: Trump announces Pompeo to go to Doha for Afghanistan talks

“In accordance with the agreement signed (with) the United States, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (the name given to the insurgents) declares its readiness to participate in the inaugural ceremony of the inter-Afghan negotiations to be held in Qatar (. ..) September 12, 2020 ”, ie Saturday, first said the Taliban in a statement.

Then insist on their intention to “advance the negotiation process” and “to bring comprehensive peace and a pure Islamic system within the framework of (their) Islamic values ​​and (their) higher national interests”.

The Afghan presidency, on Twitter, then announced the departure for Qatar of its 21 negotiators on Friday. The head of the reconciliation council, the former chief executive and unsuccessful candidate for the last presidential election Abdullah Abdullah, will notably represent the Afghan government at the inaugural ceremony, she said.

The Qatari Foreign Ministry confirmed the start of the debates for Saturday, calling it “a serious and important step towards establishing a lasting peace in Afghanistan”.

The United States, for its part, called on the belligerents not to “waste” this “historic opportunity” to end the war in Afghanistan, which in fact started more than forty years ago with the Soviet invasion of December 1979.

“I urge negotiators to show the pragmatism, restraint and flexibility necessary for this process to be successful,” US Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

Assassins freed

Scheduled for March, the unprecedented peace talks between the two camps have been postponed regularly due to persistent disagreements over a prisoner exchange: some 5,000 Taliban against a thousand members of the Afghan forces.

This provision, enshrined in an American-Taliban agreement signed in February in Qatar, which confirms the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan by mid-2021, from the outset aroused hostility from Kabul, which did not sign the text.

The Afghan authorities were particularly reluctant to release the last 400 insurgents, accused or convicted of serious crimes, which they finally released last week, with the exception of a handful of detainees.

Six of them left Afghan soil on Thursday evening in a special plane to Qatar, we learned from two Taliban sources and an Afghan government source.

“A few moments ago, the six brothers from the Islamic Emirate arrived in Qatar in good health,” tweeted Mohammad Naeem, a Taliban spokesperson.

Several countries, including Australia and France, oppose the release of these prisoners, guilty of having killed their nationals in Afghanistan.

One of them is an ex-Afghan soldier accused of killing five French soldiers and wounding 13 others in 2012. Another, also a former soldier, killed three Australian soldiers.

The two assassins of Bettina Goislard, a French UN employee killed in 2003, for their part “were released today (Thursday) in Wardak province”, near Kabul, said two Taliban sources. Information not confirmed by the authorities.

The French Foreign Ministry on Thursday expressed “its firmest opposition to the release of individuals convicted of having committed crimes against French nationals, in particular soldiers and aid workers”.

The United States, at the head of a coalition that ousted the Taliban from power at the end of 2001, has continued to push for an end to the exchange of captives and for negotiations to begin.

US President Donald Trump wants to repatriate all of his troops from Afghanistan as quickly as possible and end the longest war in his country’s history.

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