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Taliban say they're ready for second round of talks with US

AP  |  Islamabad 

The are ready for a second round of talks with the U.S., possibly this month, which is likely to focus on prisoner exchange, confidence building measures, and ways to move from back-door meetings to formal negotiations, said officials in separate interviews in recent days.

Speaking on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media, officials recounted details of a meeting held in July with Alice Wells, Washington's top

One of the officials said the meeting ended with a plan to meet again in September. The U.S. has refused to confirm or deny that meeting.

Both the U.S. and have insisted that talks on Afghanistan's future would be Afghan-led, while direct talks between and the Taliban which the insurgents have long demanded are said to be a stepping stone toward Afghan-to-Afghan talks.

The Taliban have sought direct talks to settle U.S. concerns about the Taliban's participation in Afghanistan's future as well as the presence of NATO and the U.S. in the country.

The official, who spoke to from Qatar, where the Taliban maintain a political office, said they are waiting on for a second meeting date.

During the July meeting, the Taliban asked for recognition of their political office in the capital of as well as an end to restrictions against its top leaders before the start of the formal negotiations, they said.

The Taliban repeated their longstanding demand for the release of its prisoners in jails in Afghanistan, claiming as many as 2,000 are being held.

has long been demanding the release of prisoners held by the Taliban including American and Australian Timothy Weeks, two professors at the in who were kidnapped in August 2016 as they returned to their compound.

In a statement posted on its website, the Taliban last month took the unusual step of withdrawing security promises to the International Committee of the Red Cross, saying the ICRC had failed to help prisoners in Afghanistan's who were on a hunger strike to protest prison conditions.

The Taliban statement was unusual in that it was a rare time that the insurgent group threatened punitive action for alleged behavior that was not Taliban-specific, but rather a general condemnation for a job it said was being poorly done.

The same statement warned all international organizations operating in to "understand that if they indulge in trivial or other irrelevant activities instead of focusing on the main needs of the oppressed people, the Islamic Emirate will treat them in a similar fashion as the decision taken against the "

Meanwhile, Taliban officials said talks between the U.S. and Taliban are at a preliminary stage, still sorting out the simplest of details such as an agenda of formal talks, where those talks might be conducted and who would participate.

Still, Taliban officials said the July meeting covered a gambit of issues ranging from a U.S. request for a two-month cease fire to allow for peaceful scheduled for next month in Kabul, to a visit by Taliban officials to prisoners in government custody. No agreement was reached on either.

Taliban officials said the details of the July meeting were shared with the Taliban leadership council Nooruddin Turabi, who traveled to for the briefing. It wasn't clear from where Turabi travelled but the leadership council is believed to be headquartered in Pakistan, even as denies providing the insurgents with safe havens.

During the Taliban rule that ended in 2001 with the U.S.-led invasion Turabi served as of Protection of Virtue and Suppression of Vice.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, September 12 2018. 17:25 IST