January 23, 2019

Taliban join Moscow talks to kick start Afghanistan negotiations

10 November 2018, 06:34 | Devin Moran

US diplomat Alice Wells meets Additional Secretary FO Aftab Khokhar on November 6. — Foreign Office File

US diplomat Alice Wells meets Additional Secretary FO Aftab Khokhar on November 6. — Foreign Office  File

The U.S. backs a call by Afghanistan's president Ashraf Ghani for the government to hold talks with the Taliban without pre-conditions.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and representatives of both the Afghan government and the Taliban pose for a photo prior to global talks on Afghanistan in Moscow on November 9, 2018. Technically it does not want to absent itself from a meeting hosted by Russian Federation, a country seen as a strategic partner, and be left out of a dialogue on the future of Afghanistan, which it considers part of its extended neighbourhood.

The meeting, which underlines Russia's desire to be involved in any settlement in Afghanistan, took place as USA special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad prepared for a fresh round of talks with Taliban officials in Qatar.

Shaheen also denied accusations by the USA military that Russian Federation has supplied weapons to the Taliban, echoing a similar denial by Moscow.

The US and Taliban did actually engage in direct talks recently, Stanikzai said, hailing it as a positive sign.

China, Pakistan, Iran, India, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan are among other participants.

The one-day conference was hosted by Russian Federation and participated by the Taliban as well as representatives from several countries including Pakistan, China and Iran.

"I am counting on you holding a serious and constructive conversation that will justify the hopes of the Afghan people", he said before the talks continued behind closed doors.

Representatives of the Taliban attend global talks on Afghanistan in Moscow on November 9, 2018.

The Afghan foreign ministry emphasised that the council did not represent the Afghan government at the meeting, however, but was acting as a "national" non-government institution.

TRT World speaks with Omar Samad, former Afghan foreign ministry spokesman, for more.

Before the meeting, Habiba Sarabi, a member of the High Peace Council, said the delegation came to Moscow to talk to the Taliban.

"Discussions will be made and a suitable delegation and negotiators will be selected", said Abdul Rahim Bek, a senior member of the council.

In both cases, the United States has had an active military presence inside the countries.

File image of Afghan Taliban.

The Americans sent an official from its Moscow embassy as an observer, and the Indians added their own creative bit by sending two retired foreign service officers who are associated with government-funded think tanks, to participate in the dialogue.

India had announced that it would participate at a "non-official" level in the talks on the Afghan peace process being held at Moscow.

Russian President Vladimir Putin supported the US military campaign in Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks, but Moscow has grown increasingly critical of USA actions as relations with Washington have soured, and is stepping up its own diplomatic outreach across the region.

The Moscow conference comes as Washington already has initiated a direct dialogue process with the Taliban, meeting a long-running insurgent demand.

According to Russian news agency TASS, this is for the second time, Russia is attempting to bring regional powers together while discovering ways for establishing peace in war-torn Afghanistan.

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