US Urges Afghanistan To Not Delay Intra-Afghan Peace Talks

President Ashraf Ghani spoke to U.S. National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien on Monday, who urged Afghanistan to start the peace talks with the Taliban soon.

The U.S. National Security Council released a statement that said O’Brien discussed the “need for intra-Afghan talks to start without delay.”

O’Brien also reiterated the U.S. support for a “sovereign, democratic, and unified Afghanistan that never again serves as a source of international terrorism,” the press statement said.

Later, Presidential spokesperson Sediq Sediqqi also said that Ghani “stressed the need for the start of the direct negotiations between the Taliban and the government.”

The much-delayed peace talks were supposed to start in mid-July but kept getting delayed.

The process has stalled with the government’s insistence that the Taliban release the Afghan security forces personnel they still had before the government completes the final prisoner swap.

The Taliban also rejected Western objections to release of prisoners who had killed international troops.

Taliban’s chief negotiator Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai told the French and Australian government to not interfere in the prisoner exchange, reported The Telegraph on Monday.

“France and Australia have no right to interfere in Afghanistan’s internal problems,” he told The Telegraph, adding, “These soldiers are our lions.”

“We take prisoners very seriously and urge the U.S. to release them as soon as possible.”

Cracks also emerged in the Afghan government’s negotiating team after a presidential decree finalizing names of 46 members to the High Council for National Reconciliation, met resistance from the chairman of the council, Abdullah Abdullah.

Later during a press conference, Presidential spokesperson Sediqqi said that changes to the council may be made.

“The Afghan government believes in consultation. If individuals or politicians want to be part of the process, the Afghan government will consider advice from consultation,” he said.

Last week, Abdullah had announced that talks between the warring parties would begin in early September, but did not mention the completion of the prisoner exchange. He did say they were holding consultations for the completion of the council.

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