• publish: 27 August 2020
  • time: 9:45 am
  • category: Politics
  • No: 15045

Taliban formed a new 20-member peace negotiation team

The Taliban’s chief negotiator Abbas Stanikzai said the group has formed a new 20-member team responsible for holding intra-Afghan talks and negotiations with the United States.

In an interview with RFE/RL on Wednesday, Stanikzai said he will head the new department which will also be tasked with selecting the location and preparing the agenda for planned peace talks. 

Talks, which were supposed to have started early this month, hit a roadblock after President Ashraf Ghani suspended the prisoner release process, which had been a pre-condition for start of talks between government and the Taliban. 

This condition was in accordance with the Doha agreement, signed in February, between the group and the US. 

Ghani has refused to release the remaining 320 ‘hardcore’ Taliban prisoners, many of whom masterminded some of Afghanistan’s major attacks while others are drug kingpins. 

Stanikzai meanwhile told RFE/RL that the newly formed department is separate from the Doha-based Taliban political office and will be in direct contact with the Taliban leadership. 

He also said the intra-Afghan talks will be held in different countries.

Stanikzai’s interview coincided with the visit of a Taliban group, led by Mullah Abdul Baradar, to Pakistan this week at the invitation of Islamabad. 

In a statement issued early Thursday morning, the Qatar-based political office’s spokesman Suhail Shaheen said a six-member delegation had met with Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Mahmood Qureshi, Pakistan’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and other senior officials. 

He said the team discussed a wide range of issues including that of Taliban prisoners being held in Pakistan jails. 

The “release of Afghan prisoners in Pakistan was also held under discussion with Pakistani officials promising that all necessary steps for their release will be taken,” read the statement. 

According to the statement, “those without families or held on petty crime charges will be freed while prison sentence of those held on serious charges will be reduced.”

Discussions were also held on the need for peace and security in Afghanistan and the region and “both sides stress upon the importance of building trust and good relations between the two countries.”

This visit came just days after Pakistan imposed sanctions on individuals and “terrorist associated groups”, including Baradar, in keeping with the United Nations Security Council resolutions in order to avoid being demoted from the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) grey list.

Included in the measures taken, which would theoretically directly affect Baradar, Pakistan imposed a travel ban on 88 individuals and seized bank accounts and assets belonging to terrorists in the country. 

In a statement last week, the Foreign Ministry said: “The sanctions are being implemented by Pakistan in compliance with the relevant UNSC resolutions and we hope that other countries will also follow suit.” 

This notification comes ahead of the crucial FATF meeting in October which will see the force assess Pakistan’s progress in fighting crimes such as money laundering and terror financing. 

Pakistan has long been accused of sheltering and supporting Taliban leaders but Islamabad has continued to deny the charges.

Pakistan meanwhile has been on FATF’s grey list since June 2018 and was given a final warning in February.

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