Australian and French government officials insisted that the murders of their citizens convicted by Afghan court should serve full sentence.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban say they are "ready" to start peace talks with the government. Negotiations stumble over the fate of some prisoners. Australia and France oppose the release of these detainees, guilty of having killed their nationals
The historic peace talks between the Taliban and Kabul, delayed for more than six months, will start on Saturday in Qatar in an attempt to end nearly nineteen years of conflict between the two sides in Afghanistan. In a statement, the Taliban announced Thursday, September 10, to be "ready to participate in the inaugural ceremony of inter-Afghan negotiations to be held in Qatar (...) on September 12, 2020 ”, or Saturday.
Then to insist on their intention to "advance the negotiation process" and "to bring comprehensive peace and a pure Islamic system within the framework of the Islamic values and the higher national interests".
The Afghan presidency, on Twitter, then announced the departure of its 21 negotiators for Doha on Friday. The head of the reconciliation council, the former chief executive and the unsuccessful presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah, will notably represent the Afghan government at the inaugural ceremony, she said.
US President Donald Trump, in the process, made it known that his Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, left Washington on Thursday evening "for a historic trip to Doha". "We get along very well with the Taliban", assured Mr Trump.
Before leaving, Mike Pompeo called on the belligerents not to waste this "historic opportunity" to end the war in Afghanistan, which in fact started more than forty years ago with the Soviet invasion of December 1979, then revived by the American intervention to overthrow the Taliban then in power in Kabul and to hunt down Al-Qaida after the September 11, 2001 attacks. "I urge negotiators to show the pragmatism, restraint and flexibility necessary for this process to be successful," Mr Pompeo said in a statement.
Disagreements over the exchange of prisoners
Scheduled for March, the unprecedented peace talks between the two camps have been regularly postponed due to persistent disagreements over a prisoner exchange: some 5,000 Taliban against 1,000 members of the Afghan forces.
This provision, enshrined in an American-Taliban agreement signed in February in Qatar, which confirms the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan by mid-2021, from the outset aroused hostility from Kabul, which did not sign the text.
The Afghan authorities were particularly reluctant to release the last 400 insurgents, accused or convicted of serious crimes, which they eventually released last week, with the exception of a handful of detainees. Six of them left Afghan soil on Thursday evening in a special plane to Qatar, two Taliban sources and an Afghan government source were told. "A few moments ago, the six brothers (...) arrived in good health in Qatar," tweeted Mohammad Naeem, a Taliban spokesperson.
Several countries, including Australia and France, oppose the release of these prisoners, guilty of having killed their nationals in Afghanistan. One of them is an ex-Afghan soldier accused of killing five French soldiers and injuring 13 others in 2012. Another, also a former soldier, killed three Australian soldiers.
Australia opposes the release of an Afghan soldier, jailed for killing three of its military personnel in 2012, as part of a prisoner transfer deal to help usher in peace talks in the war-torn country, Foreign Minister Marise Payne said on Friday. Minister Payne stated one of the six was Hekmatullah, a former Afghan army sergeant who killed three Australian solders in 2012.
She stated Canberra did not support the prisoner release. Hekmatullah should serve a full custodial sentence for the crimes for which he was convicted by an Afghan court, and he should not be released as part of a prisoner amnesty, Payne said in an emailed statement.
Paris reiterated Thursday evening its "firmest opposition to the release of individuals convicted of having committed crimes against French nationals, in particular soldiers and humanitarian workers who have worked with dedication, alongside our Afghan partners, for security and assistance to populations in need, ”the French foreign ministry said in a statement.
The two assassins of Ms Bettina Goislard, a French UN employee killed in 2003, were released Thursday in Wardak province, near Kabul, two Taliban sources said. Information not confirmed by the authorities.