China, Pakistan Urge Taliban to Reduce Violence, Start Talks

Under the US-Taliban peace agreement, 5,000 Taliban prisoners will be released from the Afghan government’s jails.

In a trilateral virtual meeting held between Afghanistan, Pakistan and China on Tuesday, the Pakistan and Chinese officials have reiterated the call on the Taliban to reduce violence to help pave the way for the start of intra-Afghan talks, the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Tuesday as violence continues across the country.

“On July 7, 2020, the 3rd round China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Trilateral Vice Foreign Ministers’ Strategic Dialogue was held via video link. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Luo Zhaohui, Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Mirwais Nab and Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood co-chaired the dialogue,” Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

According to the statement, the three sides conducted in-depth discussions and reached consensus on cooperation against COVID-19, the Afghan peace and reconciliation process, and trilateral cooperation.

The statement also reads: China and Pakistan appreciated the efforts by the Afghanistan government and relevant parties in expediting the exchange of the prisoners to pave the way for the start of the Intra-Afghan Negotiations and call for violence reduction and humanitarian ceasefire. China and Pakistan will enhance cooperation with the Afghan government in support of the “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned” peace reconciliation process, the launch of Intra-Afghan Negotiations at an early date, support the preservation of the gains since 2001, and looked forward to the early restoration of peace and stability in Afghanistan.”

“Afghanistan and Pakistan agreed to further strengthen dialogue and work for continuous improvement of bilateral relations including through the effective implementation of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS). China will continue to play a constructive role in improving Afghanistan-Pakistan relations,” the statement said.

“The Afghan government should release the Taliban prisoners based on the peace agreement and avoid sabotaging the peace process,” said Sayed Akbar Agha, a former Taliban commander.

The Afghan government expects that the intra-Afghan talks can start sometimes during the current month, but sources close to the Taliban have said that they do not see the prospect for such talks unless the Afghan government ensure the release of 5,000 prisoners demanded by the Taliban under the Doha peace agreement signed between the US and the Taliban on February 29.

“With consideration of the measures taken by the Afghan government, the hope is that these talks start during July,” said Geran Hewad, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“When the intra-Afghan talks started, it does not mean that the Taliban negotiate with the Afghan government as a government, also, the Taliban will not agree on a ceasefire on the start of the talks,” said Sami Yousufzai, freelance journalist in Doha.

Under the US-Taliban peace agreement, 5,000 Taliban prisoners will be released from the Afghan government’s jails.

So far the government has released 4015 of the inmates.

But, the Afghan government has said that it will not [release all] 597 Taliban prisoners.

The Afghan government on Sunday revealed one of the main reasons behind the delay in the intra-Afghan negotiations, saying it is not releasing 597 prisoners of the 5,000 inmates that were to be freed as part of the confidence-building measures established in the US-Taliban agreement signed in late February.

These individuals are accused of “crimes and moral issues” and are on a list that was given to the government by the Taliban, said Ahmad Rashid Totakhil, head of the prisoners’ release affairs.

“’Murderers’ are on the Taliban list and the government has resisted. It is a (victims’) rights issue and the law does not allow to release someone under the pretext of being a Taliban member, who is charged with murder or even moral crimes like rape,” Totakhil said.

The Taliban rejected this and said the list includes names of members of the group who have been arrested on charges of being a Taliban member.

China, Pakistan Urge Taliban to Reduce Violence, Start Talks