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US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad hopes intra-Afghan talks conclude in ‘100 days’

The intra-Afghan talks which were slated to begin on March 10 in Oslo were delayed because of the issues over the timing of the Taliban prisoner release.

SNS | New Delhi |

Zalmay Khalilzad, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation on Wednesday expressed hope for the intra-Afghan talks between the Kabul government and the Taliban would conclude in 100 days.

Khalilzad signed the long-awaited peace deal in behalf of the US with the Taliban in Doha on February, made the remarks while speaking to the TOLO News.

The intra-Afghan talks which were slated to begin on March 10 in Oslo were delayed because of the issues over the timing of the Taliban prisoner release.

Khalilzad said,”In order to end the war between Afghanistan and the Taliban, there is a need for a compromise to reach a political settlement”, TOLO News reported.

“I personally hope that this issue (intra-Afghan negotiations) will be resolved within 100 days. We want this issue to be resolved during the first phase of the withdrawal of US forces from the country, and this will be in the interest of Afghanistan and the world,” the US envoy further added.

On Wednesday, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani has pardoned thousands of Taliban prisoners in a key preliminary step to intra-Afghan talks between a government delegation and the extremist group.

Ghani’s move to release the 5,000 inmates marks the beginning of negotiations to end the 19 years of war that have pitted the Taliban against the government in Afghanistan.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the United States’ Afghanistan peace representative, said in a later Twitter message that prisoners’ release would begin Saturday based on a list provided by insurgents.

Talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government to end the war will run parallel with the release, the decree said.

The release of the prisoners is part of a confidence-building measure to pave the way for the opening of direct talks between the government and the insurgents, after talks with both sides and the United States individually.

According to the deal, the US is going to reduce its troops to 8,600 in Afghanistan within 135 days, and will, together with its NATO allies, completely pull out the remaining one in the following 14 months if the Taliban stuck to its commitments.

The deal would contribute to bringing stability back to Afghanistan and promote regional and international security, the Saudi Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

More than 10,000 civilians were killed or wounded in Afghanistan’s war last year, the United Nations announced Saturday, as a historic partial truce kicked in across the country. India did not recognise Afghanistan diplomatically when Taliban was ruling the country from 1996 to 2002.