Russian Federation brings together Afghan officials, Taliban in talks

Russian Federation brings together Afghan officials, Taliban in talks

Shaheen said the Taliban delegation had not spoken directly with the government-backed envoys from the Afghan High Peace Council.

The five-member Taliban delegation present at the Moscow hotel venue for the talks included top political envoy Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai and his deputy, Abdul Salam Hanafi.

"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".

Mujahid defended the Taliban's participation in Moscow meeting, saying it will not be chaired or co-chaired by the Kabul government unlike previous such global gatherings. "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.

No such agreement has been reached so far, he added. It would mark the first time an Indian delegation would be at the table with a Taliban delegation from its political office in Doha.

"We will not tolerate a single United States soldier in Afghanistan", said the head of the Taliban delegation at the global meeting on Afghanistan in Moscow, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, adding that the insurgent group's "main goal" is to "put an end" to the 17-year-long "invasion" led by the United States and its allies.

The United States and the Taliban are both set to attend for the first time a multilateral conference Russian Federation will host Friday in Moscow to discuss how to achieve peace and national reconciliation in Afghanistan.

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"Russia supports the preservation of a united and indivisible Afghanistan in which all ethnic groups populating the country could live peacefully and happily", Lavrov said at the meeting, according to Russia's state-run news agency TASS. "They came here to express their views, and we came here to express our views. We appreciate the efforts of any country that tries to contribute to Afghan peace".

"The United States believes that all countries should support direct dialogue between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban to reach an end to the war and we have been clear that no government, including Russian Federation, can be a substitute for the Afghan government in direct negotiations with the Taliban".

The meeting was billed by Russian Federation as an attempt to bring the Taliban and the USA -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. This week, the White House's special representative for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, is touring the region, tasked with pressing the Taliban and the government to form negotiating teams. "We asked them to define a date and place for the direct talks", he said.

As well as the five-member Taliban delegation, Russian Federation brought to the meeting several senior Afghan political figures, including some who have clashed with Ghani in the past. He also denied it had supplied any weapons to the group.

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. "They are all happy to be here", said Afghanistan's ambassador to Russia, Dr. Abdul Qayyum Kochai.

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

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