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Afghan Peace Negotiators To Fly To Qatar As More Taliban Prisoners Freed


FILE: Taliban prisoners gather inside the Pul-e-Charkhi prison in Kabul on August 13.

KABUL -- Afghan officials say the government is dispatching a delegation to Qatar ahead of long-delayed peace talks after authorities pressed ahead with the release of Taliban prisoners.

Kabul broke an impasse with the Taliban this week by resuming a prisoner exchange, a key hurdle in the launch of negotiations in the Qatari capital, Doha, where the militant group has a political office.

A government source told RFE/RL on condition of anonymity that all of the remaining Taliban in custody will be released on September 2.

"All obstacles have been removed," Firdon Khawzon, a spokesman for Afghanistan's High Council for National Reconciliation, the body leading the peace process, told AFP. "The prisoners' exchange will be completed soon."

Speaking to Reuters, Khawzon said that a government-mandated negotiation team will leave for Doha on September 3.

Najia Anwari, a spokeswoman for the State Ministry for Peace Affairs, said that a "small technical team" had been sent for Doha "for logistical preparations."

Kabul's team of negotiators will also leave for Qatar "very soon," Anwari said.

Officials were quoted as saying Kabul had released some 200 Taliban inmates since September 1 to spur the start of long-delayed peace negotiations.

The fate of a group of 400 "hardcore" Taliban prisoners has stalled peace negotiations between the government in Kabul and the Taliban to end nearly two decades of war in Afghanistan.

The Taliban has blamed Kabul for delaying the talks and said they are willing to begin peace talks "within a week" of the prisoner exchange being completed.

The negotiations are part of an agreement reached between the militants and the United States in February in an effort to end the Afghan conflict.

With reporting by AFP and Reuters

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