Kabul [Afghanistan], September 12 (ANI): The Taliban on Saturday said it has released 22 Afghan soldiers in the southern Hemland province as a goodwill gesture.
"Today in the Helmand province, 22 soldiers of the Kabul administration, who were captured in different battles at different times were released from the prisons of the Islamic Emirate [the Taliban] due to the beginning of the intra-Afghan negotiations and good intentions ... The expectation from the other side is also to take similar steps and make the most of the opportunities," the Taliban said in a statement.
The much-anticipated peace talks between the Afghanistan government and the Taliban have opened in Qatar's capital Doha to end the two decades of war that has killed ten of thousands.
Abdullah Abdullah, the chairperson of Afghanistan's High Council for National Reconciliation, said peace can be reached when all sides respect the opinions of each other, adding that it was the time to end the 40-year conflict.
"Welcome to all of you who have come together for Afghan peace. I am speaking here on behalf or as a representative of the President of Afghanistan [Ashraf Ghani]. I thank the Taliban for agreeing to the talks to the Afghan government. Today is the day to discuss ending the war, ending the pain of Afghans. We have come together to end the 40-years war to end political violence with the Taliban," Abdullah told reporters before the start of negotiations.
Topics on the agenda during the talks include a permanent ceasefire, Afghanistan's future political system and a range of social issues.
The negotiations, where the two warring sides will sit face-to-face for the first time, will start on Monday.
The Afghan government's 21-member negotiating team was led by Masoom Stanekzai, a former intelligence chief. On the other hand, the Taliban was led by Mawlavi Abdul Hakim, the terror group's chief justice and a close aide of the group's chief Haibatullah Akhunzada, Al Jazeera reported.
Peace negotiations were expected to take place in March but were delayed repeatedly due to a prisoner exchange agreement made as part of the deal signed between the United States and Taliban in February.
According to the agreement, the Afghan government said it will release 5,000 Taliban prisoners while the Taliban agreed to release 1,000 Afghan troops. (ANI)