The Afghan government and the Taliban discussed the exchange of prisoners during a rare video conference to pave the way for a broader peace agenda, US Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad said.
"Today, the US and Qatar facilitated the first Afghan government to Taliban technical talks on prisoner releases, via Skype video conferencing," Khalilzad posted on Twitter on Sunday.
Khalilzad has long urged the Afghan rivals to proceed with the prisoners' swap as soon as possible, given the rapid spread of the COVID-19.
In a thread of follow-up tweets, he said, "Prisoner releases by both sides is an important step in the peace process, as stated in the US-Taliban agreement. And critical for humanitarian reasons."
He further described the discussion as "important, serious, and detailed." Khalilzad's impression was that "Everyone clearly understands the coronavirus threat makes prisoner releases that much more urgent."
"All sides conveyed their strong commitment to a reduction of violence, intra-Afghan negotiations, and a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire," Khalilzad wrote.
The Afghan Security Council has, in turn, confirmed that the two sides had "exchanged views on basic technical measures to create a conducive environment for the release of prisoners."
In broader terms, the council said that the reduction of violence, the direct negotiations, and a permanent and extensive ceasefire were discussed during the call.
According to these statements, the discussion lasted for around two and a half hours and a follow-on technical meeting was scheduled to take place within the next two days.
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