US calls on Afghan leaders to set aside disputes, focus on virus

Published April 27, 2020
Well-being of Afghan people depends on all parties devoting full energy to fight the pandemic, says Khalilzad. — AFP/File
Well-being of Afghan people depends on all parties devoting full energy to fight the pandemic, says Khalilzad. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The US peace envoy to Afghanistan on Sunday called on the country’s feuding leaders to set their differences aside to combat the coronavirus pandemic and advance a stalled peace agreement signed with the Taliban earlier this year.

The well-being of the Afghan people and the country depends on all parties devoting their full energies to fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, the shared enemy of all, Zalmay Khalilzad tweeted early on Sunday.

He said Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his rival Abdullah Abdullah, who each declared himself the victor in September’s election, should put the interest of the country ahead of their own during Ramazan.

He urged the government and the Taliban to carry out a prisoner exchange that was part of the US-Taliban peace agreement signed in February. The agreement had called for the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners and 1,000 government personnel held by the insurgents.

To date, Mr Ghani has released 550 detainees based on age, vulnerability to the virus and time served. The Taliban have not said if those are among the prisoners referred to in the agreement. The Taliban have freed 60 prisoners.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement on Sunday that his group was living up to its side of the agreement, and that it was willing to negotiate a countrywide ceasefire in intra-Afghan talks. Those negotiations were supposed to have begun within 10 days of the Feb 29 deal but are still on hold because of the political bickering in Kabul.

Published in Dawn, April 27th, 2020

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