NATO has welcomed the announcement of a three-day cease-fire in Afghanistan during the Muslim celebration of the end of Ramadan – Eid al-Fitr.
“I welcome the statements by the government of Afghanistan & the Taliban on a 3-day ceasefire over Eid. All parties should seize this opportunity for peace, for the benefit of all Afghans,” Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg wrote on his Twitter micro blog on May 23.
“NATO remains committed to Afghanistan’s long-term security,” he underlined.
In a message preceeding the celebrations, the insurgents made the surprise announcement amid escalating conflict and a fragile peace process, directing militants to stay out of areas under the government control, but adding government forces could visit Taliban-controlled areas.
In a similar holiday truce two years ago, there were unprecedented scenes of foes embracing each other and taking selfies.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani welcomed the announcement, explaining that he instructed the military to comply.
“President Ghani today initiated a process to release up to 2,000 Taliban prisoners as a good will gesture in response to the Taliban’s announcement of a ceasefire during Eid,” Ghani’s spokesman Sediq Sediqqi announced on Twitter.
“A significant exchange of detainees took place following an agreement reached by the Trilateral Contact Group” reads the statement of the European External Action Service on exchange of detainees between Kiev and sefl-proclaimed Republics of Donetsk and Lughansk.
“This is a welcome example of implementation of one of the measures agreed at the Normandy 4 Summit of 9 December. The European Union expects all parties to further build on this momentum. Work to implement the measures agreed at the Summit must continue.
“We take note of the exchange of people related to the tragic events on Maidan in 2014. We expect all accusations will continue to be investigated and the parties concerned to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.
“The European Union reaffirms its support to the work of the Normandy format, the OSCE and the Trilateral Contact Group. It stresses the importance of the implementation of the Minsk agreements in full, including a permanent ceasefire. It is the only way to reach a sustainable and peaceful solution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine. The European Union remains in steadfast support of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Kiev is exchanging dozens of prisoners with the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk republics in the first time in two years. The swap is a direct result of the recent Normandy Four talks in Paris, hosted by President Macron.
The Donetsk authorities has handed over 51 people to Kiev, while receiving 61. The Lugansk region returned 25 and took in 63 prisoners; nine people held by Kiev refused to take part in the exchange.
The office of Ukrainian President confirmed that Kiev had received a total of 76 people from Donetsk and Lugansk.
Donetsk’s responsible for the exchange said their list could be longer, as some people asked to be repatriated shortly before the exchange.
The swap, carried out under an “all for all” formula, was the first since a similar humanitarian effort in December 2017.
The prisoner exchange was overseen by officials from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). No ceasefire violations were recorded on the frontier during the exchange operation.