The Afghan government has announced a 21-member committee that would hold direct peace talks with the Taliban.
Abdul Salam Rahimi, president's special representative and state minister for peace, said former intelligence chief Mohammed Masoum Stanekzai will head the committee.
"President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan wishes this delegation success and hopes it would keep greater national interests, mutual values and Afghanistan's principle stand in view during all rounds of talks," Rahimy said in a message.
Earlier this week, in a major breakthrough, the Taliban agreed to send a delegation to Afghanistan to facilitate the thorny prisoners swap as part of the peace deal with the U.S.
In Kabul, the National Security Council also announced the Peace Initial Contact Group met virtually with the Taliban on Wednesday and discussed initial technical steps for the release of prisoners.
It said subject to further discussions, and pursuant to President Ashraf Ghani’s decree, 100 prisoners will be set free on humanitarian grounds – including health, age and vulnerability to COVID19 -- by March 31 after guarantees by Taliban and the prisoners that they will not re-enter the fight.
"To carry out these further discussions, a Taliban team will meet with the government face-to-face in Afghanistan in the coming days", it said, adding U.S. special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad, Qatari special envoy for counterterrorism and mediation in conflict resolution Mutlaq al-Qahtani, and ICRC head of delegation Juan Pedro Schaerer also attended Wednesday's meeting.
The rejuvenated yet fragile Afghan peace process faced deadlocks as differences persisted between Kabul and the Taliban over a proposed exchange of prisoners.
According to official sources, there are 12,000-15,000 inmates, including foreigners from Pakistan, Central Asia and Gulf countries, in different prisons across Afghanistan.
The Taliban have demanded the release of 5,000 of their militants in return for the release of 1,000 captives, including Afghan government officials and security personnel.
The Afghan government, however, insists on releasing them in phases along with intra-Afghan talks and a ceasefire in place.
Saturday 28 March 2020 10:07