Afghanistan’s Loya Jirga, its highest consultative body of elders, on Saturday urged the government to release the remaining 400 Taliban prisoners in its custody, to push forward the peace process.
On the second day of the grand assembly in the capital Kabul, Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the Supreme Council of National Reconciliation, said a majority of participants voted in favour of releasing the Taliban inmates.
The fate of the remaining captive insurgents – a particularly thorny issue between Kabul and the Taliban – was one of the main aims of the grand moot, which ends on Sunday. Abdullah said the over 3,000 participants held detailed deliberations on other top priority matters as well, and have voiced support for the government’s calls for a permanent cease-fire and international guarantees that the Taliban will not resort to violence again.
They also agreed that the much-stalled intra-Afghan talks should start at the earliest, he said. President Ashraf Ghani, addressing the inaugural session on Friday, had conveyed that the government was keen to commence negotiations immediately.
“[…] The sooner you [council participants] decide, the better it is so that the talks between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban begin,” he said.
He also defended the need for a democratic system in the country, saying the elders of Afghanistan had gathered “to strengthen democratic values, unity and ensure support for economic development.”
Meanwhile, at least 17 participants of a major Afghan grand assembly tested positive for the new coronavirus, officials said on Saturday, a day after the high-profile gathering began in Kabul to deliberate over the fate of Taliban prisoners and the beginning of the peace process in the war-torn country.