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Khalilzad says the United States promised to facilitate the exchange of prisoners


ISLAMABAD: Zalmay Khalilzad, a special US envoy for reconciliation in Afghanistan, said Thursday that Washington was still committed to facilitating the exchange of prisoners agreed between the United States and the Taliban in the agreement signed in Doha on February 29.
The agreement between the United States and the Taliban was pressured after a resurgence of violence in Afghanistan and Kabul’s refusal to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners before March 10, due date for intra-Afghan talks.
In an effort to save the agreement that paved the way for the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, Khalilzad rushed to Kabul to convince Afghan President Ashraf Ghani about the exchange of prisoners, a precondition that Washington had agreed with the Taliban for intra-Afghan conversations. However, Ghani declined to meet with Khalilzad on Wednesday.
While Kabul remained impassive at the release of the prisoners, Khalilzad turned to Twitter saying that the administration of President Trump was committed to facilitating the exchange of prisoners.
“The United States is committed to facilitating the exchange of prisoners, agreed both in the United States-Taliban Agreement and in the United States-Afghanistan Joint Declaration. We will support each side to release significant numbers, ”said Khalilzad.
The US envoy also said on Twitter that he met on Wednesday night with Taliban chief negotiator Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and his team.
“I met Mullah Baradar and his team last night for an honest discussion about the next steps, followed by a constructive phone call with President Donald Trump. We all agree that the purpose of the agreement between the United States and the Taliban is to pave the way for a comprehensive peace in Afghanistan, ”said Khalilzad, adding that all parties involved in the process should try to work towards intra-Afghan talks.
“We must act on all fronts to clear the path of obstacles that delay our progress towards intra-Afghan negotiations. Once again, I ask all Afghans to live up to the circumstances, put the country first and don’t miss this historic opportunity, ”he said.
However, Kabul has reiterated that no Taliban prisoner will be released before the start of intra-Afghan talks and that the issue of prisoner exchange will be discussed during the talks.

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