Afghanistan peace talks

The Afghan government said Thursday it had released 400 Taliban prisoners under an exchange deal, and expected peace negotiations to start soon.

Iran Press/Asia: "The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has received our commandos held hostage by Taliban, after which the government released the remaining 400 convicts, except the few for which our partners have reservations," National Security Council spokesman Javid Faisal said on Twitter.

"Diplomatic efforts are ongoing. We expect direct talks to start promptly."

The two warring sides have grown closer this week to launching direct talks in Qatar, wrapping up a contentious and months-long prisoner exchange.

Kabul has already sent a logistical team to Doha where the Taliban's political office is based, with the negotiators expected to depart soon.

Two Taliban officials confirmed the prisoners had been freed but that those opposed by France and Australia were still in government custody.

Paris and Canberra objected to the release of the militants because of their links to the murders of French and Australian civilians and troops in Afghanistan.

"Australia and France have some considerations about them," one Taliban official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

"The Kabul administration will send them to Qatar where they will be in custody during the intra-Afghan talks."

A Western diplomatic source, however, said Kabul had still not taken a decision.

A date for the resumption of talks has not yet been set.