Taliban Say Team In Qatar For Afghan Peace Talks

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The Taliban’s negotiating team has arrived in Qatar, a spokesman said Saturday, in a sign that long-delayed peace talks with the Afghan government are inching closer to starting.

A date for the talks, to be hosted in Doha, has not been set but the warring sides have this week signalled that negotiations could launch soon, following efforts to wrap up a drawn out prisoner exchange.

“All members of our negotiating team have arrived in Doha. The talks will begin once some small technical issues are resolved,” Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told AFP.

US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad traveled to Doha on Friday, the State Department said, in another sign that talks could be imminent.

“The Afghan people are ready for a sustainable reduction in violence and a political settlement that will end the war,” the department said in a statement.

“Afghan leaders must seize this historic opportunity for peace. All sides have taken important steps to remove obstacles for the start of IAN. Now is the time to start,” it added, referring to Intra-Afghan Negotiations.

The Taliban team had recently been in Pakistan discussing the peace process with the government in Islamabad.

Qatar authorities have been imposing a seven-day quarantine period on all arrivals to the country, but have made exemptions for some delegations who undergo regular testing.

The Afghan government’s negotiating team remained in Kabul on Saturday, but a logistics team landed in Doha earlier this week.

Faraidoon Khawzoon, a spokesman for the Afghan government’s reconciliation council, said its negotiating team was ready for talks.

“The release of the prisoners is completed and there is no excuse for delaying the talks,” he tweeted.

“But the Taliban don’t seem to be ready for the talks. We expect the Taliban to get ready and start the negotiations.”

The talks were initially due to begin in March as set out in a deal between the United States and the Taliban in February, from which Kabul was excluded.

But disagreements over ongoing violence and the prisoner swap have seen the start repeatedly pushed back.

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