India to attend meeting with Taliban in Moscow

Lamar Ellis
November 10, 2018

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday voiced hope that a conference on Afghanistan taking place in Moscow could help pave the way for peace talks.

The Russian foreign ministry said on Saturday that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had chose to send some representatives of the Afghan High Peace Council to the meeting.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani earlier made a decision to send a non-official delegation from the High Peace Council, including its deputy heads Haji Deen Mohammad and Habiba Surabi.

The Moscow meeting took place as U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad prepared for a fresh round of talks with Taliban officials in Qatar.

An unnamed source told the National that Kabul snubbed the event, choosing instead to send the members from the country's independent High Peace Council (HPC), who "will be attending the talks in their own capacity".

Russia's first attempt to hold the meeting in September fell through after the Afghan authorities refused to attend.

Russia, which said it invited representatives from the United States as well as India, Iran, China and Pakistan, hailed the meeting as an opportunity to "open a new page" in Afghanistan´s history and seek an end to the war 17 years after the US-led invasion.

The Moscow summit on peace in Afghanistan was held on Friday where representatives of the Taliban and envoys from 11 countries including the United States participated.

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"Russian Federation hopes to facilitate a "conducive atmosphere for bilateral or multilateral dialogue formats" to promote a negotiated solution to the Afghan problem as soon as possible", she stressed.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said that "we reaffirm our position on the lack of alternative to a political settlement in Afghanistan and the need for active coordinated efforts by Afghanistan's neighboring countries and regional partners". The Taliban is banned from operating in Russian Federation as it is classified as a "terrorist organisation". Its representatives won't meet directly with the Taliban officials, he said.

It said the meeting was "about holding comprehensive discussions on finding a peaceful solution to the Afghan quandary and ending the American occupation". "The Islamic Emirate [the Taliban] will also give a detailed speech and clarify its views and policy about all aspects of the issue, including restoring peace and security".

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the militant group was sending five representatives, who will not hold "any sort of negotiations" with the Peace Council delegation.

He said the group would first discuss issues concerning the United States with the Americans and reiterated that their main demand was the withdrawal of foreign troops.

Zakharova revealed that the Taliban's five-member delegation would come from its Qatar-based "political office". The attack on an army outpost in Takhar province happened as the US envoy, Khalilzad arrived in Afghanistan to kick off his peace tour.

The conference is Moscow's effort to get the Afghan authorities and the Taliban together at a table.

Emerging following two hours of talks, Taliban spokesman Muhammad Sohail Shaheen reiterated the group's position that no direct negotiations are possible until US troops leave Afghanistan. "In our policy on Afghanistan which we have articulated and which has been consistent for quite sometime that we will be supportive of any process in Afghanistan is a party to the process", said Kumar.

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