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Iran Press TV

Afghan president orders release of 1,500 Taliban prisoners

Iran Press TV

Wednesday, 11 March 2020 2:05 AM

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has approved the release of hundreds of Taliban prisoners as part of efforts to pave the way for the start of talks with the militants.

Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesman for Afghan presidential palace, made the announcement in an English tweet late on Tuesday, saying that Ghani had signed a decree to release 1,500 Taliban prisoners this week.

"President Ghani has signed the decree that would facilitate the release of the Taliban prisoners in accordance with an accepted framework for the start of negotiation between the Taliban and the Afghan government," the spokesman said in his tweet.

Sediqqi announced in subsequent tweets in Persian that the entire 1,500 prisoners would be released within 15 days starting on Saturday, "with 100 prisoners walking out of Afghan jails every day."

The official also underlined that once direct talks between the Taliban and Kabul began, the Afghan government would free 500 prisoners every two weeks until a total of 3,500 were released.

The release of the 3,500 prisoners will move forward only if there is a concrete reduction in violence, according to Sediqqi.

The decree also asserted that the prisoners had to provide a written guarantee that they would not return to the battlefield.

One of the Taliban members in the Qatari capital, Doha, confirmed a day earlier that the militant group had finalized arrangements for the release of 1,000 prisoners held by the outfit.

"We are planning to release the 1,000 prisoners of the Afghan government to the Red Crescent and they could then shift them to their hometowns or pay them cash for traveling home," Reuters quoted the militant as saying.

The prisoner exchange is in line with the last month's peace deal between Washington and the Taliban for a phased withdrawal of US-led foreign forces from Afghanistan over a span of 14 months.

Under the deal signed by US and Taliban negotiators on February 29, the Afghan government would release up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners ahead of intra-Afghan talks, and the militant group would in exchange release up to 1,000 Afghan government prisoners.

The UN security council has unanimously voted in favor of a resolution to implement the agreement and facilitate the start of talks between the militant group and the Afghan government on a political settlement to end decades of conflict.

Taliban militants have since the signing of the deal been attacking Afghan military positions.

The US invaded Afghanistan to topple a Taliban regime in 2001, accusing it of harboring the al-Qaeda terrorist group.

The development comes amid a series of institutional crises in Afghanistan, following the double swearing-in on Monday of President Ghani and his rival and former chief executive, Abdullah Abdullah, who has contested the results of the recent presidential poll.

Ghani said in his inauguration speech that "releasing Taliban prisoners and peace and security of people are interrelated."

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