International

Taliban in Kabul for prisoner exchange

New Europe - Elena Pavlovska

A three-member Taliban team has arrived in Kabul to begin a prisoner exchange process, agreed in the US-Taliban peace deal signed last month.

The move is likely to kick-start talks between the group and negotiators named by the Afghan government to end the 18-year war. The US-Taliban deal also sets out an exchange of 6,000 prisoners held by the Afghan government and the group.

“Our three-member technical team will help the process of prisoners’ release by identification of the prisoners, and their transportation”, a Taliban spokesman told the media on Tuesday, and added: “In this regard, they will do a kind of deal with the opposite side. Their practical work would start in coming days “.

The Taliban had previously refused to speak to the Afghan government directly. The country’s president Ashraf Ghani has been locked in a feud with his main political rival Abdullah Abdullah. Ghani last week announced his 21-member team to negotiate peace with the Taliban, but Abdullah rejected it.

The talks finally received a boost when the team was endorsed by Abdullah. “The formation of an inclusive negotiation team is an important step towards facilitating intra-Afghan negotiations”, Abdullah tweeted.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the developments “good news”: “We’ve seen a team identified. Looks like it’s pretty inclusive, pretty broad. We’re happy about that”, Pompeo said.

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