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'Humanitarian ceasefire' urged ahead of intra-Afghan talks

A UN envoy has urged for a humanitarian ceasefire in Afghanistan as negotiating teams of the Kabul government and the Taliban prepare to hold the much-awaited peace talks in Doha aimed to end the deadly conflict that has gripped the nation for the past two decades.

While addressing the UN Security Council (UNSC) on Thursday, Deborah Lyons, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Afghanistan, said: "I want to emphasize again the importance of the humanitarian ceasefire. This is a win-win for both parties to the peace talks and it is clearly a win for the Afghan people.

"We all need to be raising our voices to focus on the need for a humanitarian ceasefire."

She reiterated the imperative for intra-Afghan negotiations and a political solution to end the conflict, TOLO News reported.

"As I speak, Afghans representing the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan are preparing to sit with other Afghans representing the Taliban to discuss, at long last, a political settlement to the conflict. This is truly a historic moment," said Lyons.

"The coming days will hopefully bring the formal launch of intra-Afghan negotiations."

Meanwhile, US Permanent Representative to the UN Kelly Craft said that recent waves of violence were posing serious threats to peace and they needed to be stopped.

"The US condemns all acts of terrorism," Craft was quoted as saying by TOLO News.

The remarks came hours after the National Security Council confirmed that the government has released nearly all Taliban prisoners on the group's list, except for a half dozen inmates about whom Afghanistan's international partners have reservations.

Sources close to the peace talks said that the travel plans of the delegation representing the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan have been delayed until Friday.

There are unconfirmed reports that Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, the Emir of Qatar, Abdullah Abdullah, the head of the High Council for National Reconciliation, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi will attend the opening ceremony of the intra-Afghan negotiations in Doha..