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Khalilzad peace Afghanistan

The US peace envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, is bound for Qatar for the start of the intra-Afghan talks, said the US State Department in a statement on Saturday.

Khalilzad departed for Doha, Qatar on September 4, it said, adding that he will be traveling in the region to advance ongoing US efforts to promote the immediate start of intra-Afghan negotiations.

“The Afghan people are ready for a sustainable reduction in violence and a political settlement that will end the war. Afghan leaders must seize this historic opportunity for peace,” it said.

“All sides have taken important steps to remove obstacles for the start of intra-Afghan negotiations. Now is the time to start,” it added. 

Last week, Deborah Lyons, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, spoke during a UN Security Council Open VTC (videoconference) and called for a humanitarian ceasefire. The conference was held as the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban prepare to begin talks in Doha this week aimed at ending the deadly conflict that has gripped the nation for the past two decades. 

Lyons highlighted urgent issues related to peace, human rights, and the humanitarian situation, as well as other pressing issues, stating that a humanitarian ceasefire was crucial to ensure that relief efforts can be conducted.

Also last week, the Afghan government confirmed the completion of the Taliban prisoner release except for a half dozen prisoners about which international partners have reservations. 

The government received commandos held hostage by the Taliban after the government released the remaining 400 Taliban prisoners, except for the few about whom the allies have taken issue, said Javid Faisal, the spokesman for the National Security Council on Thursday.

On Saturday, the High Council for National Reconciliation said it expects the Taliban to be ready for intra-Afghan negotiations to begin this week, according to an official of the council. 

The Afghan government has said that all required arrangements have been made for the start of the intra-Afghan negotiations, but sources have said the process is facing delays as the Taliban’s negotiating team is not ready yet.

Suhail Shaheen, a Taliban spokesman in a message to TOLOnews on Friday said that the deputy leader of the group, Mullah Baradar, and other key members of Taliban’s negotiating team have returned to Doha from travels in Pakistan and that efforts are underway to finalize the date for the start of the talks.