Australia, France oppose release of Taliban

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Some countries, including France and Australia, have urged Afghanistan not to release the entire final batch of prisoners demanded by Taliban militants, officials say, further possible complication to peace talks. long awaited.

The Afghan government, under pressure from the United States as it withdraws its troops from a war that began in 2001, agreed last week to begin releasing the remaining 400 prisoners demanded by the Taliban as a precondition for the launch peace talks in Qatar.

It was not immediately clear whether objections were delaying talks, which are expected to begin in Doha shortly after the release of the remaining 320 prisoners.

Eighty have already been released.

Two foreign diplomats in Kabul said the full list of prisoners had only been shared with many countries last week and that France and Australia were strongly opposed to the release of a few prisoners on the list.

French and Australian officials have confirmed in recent days that they are opposed to the release of some prisoners, without specifying how many.

“France calls on the Afghan government not to release several terrorists convicted of murdering French citizens in Afghanistan,” the French embassy in Kabul said on Twitter.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne told media last week that the Australian government has been in contact with the U.S. and Afghan governments to ask them not to release one of the prisoners, Hekmatullah, a former sergeant in the Afghan army which had killed three Australian soldiers.

One proposed solution, according to the sources, was “house arrest” under which prisoners would be placed under surveillance outside the prison system.

Reuters reported last month that the idea was suggested by US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad during an earlier standoff.

Afghanistan’s Acting Foreign Minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar said on Sunday that the government was working to achieve “consensus” within the international community.

“The world has protested… Our job will be to build consensus on this with the world,” he told reporters.

A spokeswoman for the peace ministry said on Monday that talks would not be delayed and that a date would be announced in the coming days.

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