KABUL, July 28 (Xinhua) — Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani said on Tuesday that the government will release 600 Taliban inmates to pave the way for the long-delayed intra-Afghan peace talks, the Presidential Palace confirmed on Twitter.
“To demonstrate the government’s commitment to peace, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan will soon complete the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners as part of the exchange with Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) prisoners,” the place quoted Ghani as saying during the fourth Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) held earlier in the day in Kabul.
“With this action, we look forward to the start of direct negotiations with the Taliban in a week’s time. We call on the Taliban to join us at the negotiating table and to concluding promptly a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire,” he said, adding that “commitment to a ceasefire during the coming Eid festival will be an indication of things to come.”
The exchange of prisoners is part of a peace deal agreement signed between the United States and Taliban in Qatar in February.
So far, over 4,400 Taliban prisoners and 845 soldiers have been freed by the two sides, but the Afghan government suspended the release of the last batch of Taliban inmates over their involvement in serious crimes.
Hours after the Ghani’s announcement, the Taliban outfit announced a three-day ceasefire during the upcoming Eid al-Adha starting from Friday, a Taliban spokesman said.
Spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in a statement that they declared the ceasefire so that Afghans may spend the Eid al-Adha festival with security and joy.
Mujahid said Taliban fighters are not allowed to go to regions under the control of the government and the government security forces must not come to Taliban areas.
Afghan President Ghani welcomed the ceasefire and instructed the security forces to comply with the three-day truce.
Eid al-Adha, the annual religious Festival of Sacrifice, is to be observed from Friday to Sunday. Enditem