Published: Sat, November 10, 2018
Worldwide | By Myra Stephens

Taliban join Moscow talks to kick start Afghanistan negotiations

Taliban join Moscow talks to kick start Afghanistan negotiations

At the same time, India is uneasy that the talks are taking place without formal Afghan government participation, with the Taliban in attendence-a move that would bestow on the rebels some kind of global recognition given that it would be sharing a table for formal talks with foreign governments.

Russian Federation has hosted talks with Taliban delegates and members of Afghanistan's high peace council, as the Kremlin seeks a role as peace broker between Islamist rebels and the US-backed government in Kabul.

"This conference was not about direct talks", Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, Taliban spokesperon, told journalists in translated comments quoted by Interfax news agency.

"This government does not represent the people of Afghanistan, so we reject direct contact with them before the problem with the U.S.is solved".

The Taliban delegation reiterated a demand for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, where they support the Kabul government, and called for a reform of the constitution "based on principles of Islamic religion, national interests, historical achievements and social justice".

"We confirmed to them [Taliban representatives] that we are ready to go on negotiations without conditions", he said. "But, of course, so far these negotiations are at a very early stage, we haven't reached an agreement yet", he said.

The Moscow meeting on Friday will be the first time since 2001 that Indian representatives and head of the government-funded Indian Council of World Affairs think tank will be sitting at the same table as the Taliban.

On Wednesday, an unnamed spokesperson for the U.S. State Department reportedly confirmed that, in coordination with Kabul, the U.S. embassy in Moscow "will send a representative to the working level to observe the discussions".

The Russia-managed Afghan peace talks, or the "Moscow Forum", will also feature representatives from China, Pakistan, the US, Iran, Afghanistan and several other central Asian countries, as per Russian officials.

Western officials and Ghani's government view the Moscow meeting with some suspicion, seeing it as an attempt by Russian Federation to push its way into a process that they say must be led by Afghanistan. "We appreciate the efforts of any country that tries to contribute to Afghan peace".

"If "non-official" participation in a dialogue that includes the Taliban is acceptable to the Modi government why not a "non-official" dialogue with non-mainstream stake holders in J&K?"

The Russian foreign ministry said on Saturday that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had made a decision to send some representatives of the Afghan High Peace Council to the meeting. "We asked them to define a date and place for the direct talks", he said. "The meeting in Moscow helped move things in this direction".

The conference marks Moscow's attempt to get the Afghan authorities and the Taliban together at a table. He also denied it had supplied any weapons to the group.

Citing anonymous Russian diplomats, AA notes, "The President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Mr. [Ashraf] Ghani, chose to send a delegation of the country's High Peace Council to the meeting".

Afghan Ambassador to Russia Qayum Kochai joined the group in Moscow.

The Taliban sent five representatives to Moscow but insisted they would not hold any negotiations with the delegation from Kabul.

Zakharova revealed that the Taliban's five-member delegation would come from its Qatar-based "political office".

The Afghan and Taliban delegations were divided at the roundtable only by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov, presiding over the meeting on behalf of the host country.

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