İrem UZUN -TDO- The Taliban's negotiating team has arrived in Qatar, a spokesman said Saturday, in a sign that long-delayed peace talks with the Afghan government are inching closer to starting. "All members of our negotiating team have arrived in Doha. The talks will begin once some small technical issues are resolved," Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told AFP.
The negotiations are part of a peace deal the United States signed with the Taliban in February in Doha. Washington has ramped up pressure on Afghans on both sides of the conflict to get started with their negotiations to decide what a post-war Afghanistan might look like. The U.S. National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien held a telephone call with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani last week. The U.S. officials have also pressed neighboring Pakistan to get the Taliban to the table.
Under the troop withdrawal deal agreed between the Taliban and the United States in February, the Afghan government was due to free 5,000 Taliban prisoners while the Taliban were meant to free 1,000 prisoners belonging to the Afghan government before the talks could take place. Officials from the group and the Afghan government have said that high-profile Taliban prisoners will be transferred to Qatar ahead of the talks. "There could be six to nine people transfered to Qatar," a source told Al Jazeera.