Afghan govt, Taliban agree to hold peace talks in Doha

KABUL: The government of Afghanistan and the Taliban have agreed that Qatari Captial Doha will be the venue for the first meeting in peace talks.

The intra-Afghan dialogue will be the first high-level meeting between the two sides after years of fighting. No date has been announced for the meeting, but it is expected to take place after the two sides settle differences on the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners as soon as the end of next week.

“The first intra-Afghan meeting will happen in Doha,” Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told an international news agency, adding that they were ready to hold intra-Afghan talks within a week of the release of all prisoners.

The Afghan government has released 3,000 Taliban prisoners so far under an agreement signed between the United States and the insurgent group in February. The deal outlined a roadmap for withdrawing foreign forces from Afghanistan and peace talks to end the war.

A senior official told a news agency that the government wants talks to begin as soon as possible but has issues with the release of a few hundred high-profile Taliban prisoners. He said the government had offered an alternative prisoner release list to the Taliban.

The spokesman for the Afghan Presidential Palace, Sediq Sediqqi, said on Twitter that Doha had been agreed as the venue for the first talks but said no permanent venue had been agreed.

The Qatari capital was the venue for signing the deal between the United States and Taliban where the insurgent group has had a political office in Doha since 2013.

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