Wednesday, 14 November, 2018

New Delhi to take part in talks with Taliban at informal level’

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Head- Deputy Chairman of the Afghanistan High Peace Council Din Mohammad Azizullah and Head of Political Office of the Taliban Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai Taliban join Moscow talks to kick start Afghanistan negotiations
Ellis Copeland | 10 November, 2018, 18:33

The meeting was billed by Russian Federation as an attempt to bring the Taliban and the US -backed Afghan government closer to direct peace talks, though little was expected to come out of the event, which both sides have emphasized is not a formal negotiation. "India's consistent policy has been that such efforts should be Afghan-led, Afghan-owned, and Afghan-controlled and with participation of the government of Afghanistan", Indian foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said.

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

The Taliban has refused direct talks with the Afghan government, which it views as a US puppet, saying it will only negotiate the end of the 17-year war directly with Washington.

He said the group would first discuss issues concerning the U.S. with the Americans and reiterated that their main demand was the withdrawal of foreign troops. "But, of course, so far these negotiations are at a very early stage, we haven't reached an agreement yet", he said. This is the first time that a Taliban delegation is taking part in such high-level worldwide meeting.

The conference is being held at the level of deputy foreign ministers and related special representatives.

"Our participation at the meeting will be at the non-official level", he said.

A Taliban delegation on Friday attended a diplomatic conference in Russian Federation for the first time, in a move that underscored Moscow's keenness to play a role in the Afghan peace process, but the Kabul government sent no official representative.

"Russia, as the meeting organizer, sees its role jointly with the regional partners and friends of Afghanistan gathered around this table to render every possible assistance to launching a constructive inter-Afghan dialogue", Mr. Lavrov said. "They came here to express their views, and we came here to express our views".

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

"The fact that the Afghan government did not send an official representative sends a message that they are not fully committed to these talks", Yuri Barmin, a fellow with the Russian International Affairs Council, told Al Jazeera on Friday.

Calling New Delhi's claim that it's talking with Taliban along with other stakeholders in Masco to discuss Afghan issue as "laughable", MLA Langate Er Rasheed on Friday said that New Delhi stands exposed for its "hypocrisy, double standards and confusions". "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.

Stanikzai also rejected allegations that they are being supplied weapons by Russian Federation.

This time, the Afghan government sent only members of the government-appointed High Peace Council to attend the event.

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

On Thursday, Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, revealed that a five-man delegation would participate in the conference, stressing, "There will not be any sort of negotiations taking place with the delegation of Kabul administration". Stanikzai, the head of the Taliban's Political Office, led the delegation.

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