With the Afghan government reportedly preparing to release 1,500 Taliban in next four days, the UN Security Council unanimously has adopted a resolution welcoming recent steps towards ending the 18-year-old conflict in Afghanistan.

All 15 members supported the resolution, tabled by the United States, which endorses a joint US-Afghan declaration on peace and an agreement signed between Washington and the Taliban.

“The developments endorsed by this resolution are the product of more than a year of unprecedented US diplomatic engagement with the Taliban, in coordination with our partners in Afghanistan, the region, and around the world”, Cherith Norman Chalet, the US Acting Deputy Permanent Representative, told the 15-member Council.The U.S. – Taliban agreement, which was signed in Doha on Feb. 29, is aimed at bringing peace in war-torn Afghanistan and allowing US troops to return home from America’s longest war.

It also calls for the fundamentalists to severe ties with international terrorist groups and to prevent them from using Afghanistan to carry out attacks against the US.The Taliban also would participate in an intra-Afghan dialogue. While negotiations were scheduled to begin on Tuesday, they were postponed due to renewed violence and political discord at the highest levels of Afghan government.

Both incumbent Ashraf Ghani and rival Abdullah Abdullah claimed victory in the presidential election last September and held, in effect, duelling inauguration ceremonies on Monday.
The US has welcomed President Ghani’s steps towards agreement on an inclusive government, and Abdullah’s commitments to peace and inclusivity.

“We hope the people of Afghanistan seize the opportunity to achieve an historic peace settlement that ends the conflict in Afghanistan; preserves the gains of the last two decades in human rights, basic freedoms, and the meaningful participation of women in political and civil institutions; and ensures that the territory of the Afghan people will never again be used by international terrorists to threaten the world”, Ms. Norman Chalet said.
On Wednesday, a spokesman for President Ghani said on Twitter that the Afghan leader had signed a decree that would facilitate the release of the Taliban prisoners in accordance with an accepted framework for the start of negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government.”
The decree lays out details about how the Taliban prisoners will be released in a systematic manner to further peace deals.

On Tuesday, the Security Council vote took place just hours after the Group of Friends of Women in Afghanistan met at UN Headquarters. Its members, who include women ambassadors, champion women’s participation in the country’s future.

Group co-chair Ambassador Karen Pierce of the United Kingdom said the resolution sends a clear message on women’s inclusion.
“We expect to see the effective and meaningful participation in the peace process of women, as well as youth and other minorities. And while any peace deal is ultimately for afghans to decide upon, we affirm that it should protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of all”, she said.Prior to voting, Council members observed a minute of silence in honour of former UN Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, who died last week at age 100.The Peruvian diplomat was the UN’s fifth Secretary-General and served two terms: from 1982 to 1991.