Published: Thu, February 07, 2019
Global Media | By Jackie Banks

Taliban hold rare talks with Afghan politicians in Moscow

Taliban hold rare talks with Afghan politicians in Moscow

Among Afghan politicians, who will take part in the peace talks, are former president Hamid Karzai, former vice president Mohammad Yunus Qanuni, former Balkh governor and Jamiat-e-Islami member Atta Mohammad Noor, Jamiat-e-Islami member Mohammad Ismail Khan, and head of National Islamic Front of Afghanistan Sayed Hamid Gailani, TOLOnews TV channel reported.

The two-day sit-down in Moscow, starting on Tuesday, will be attended by some of President Ashraf Ghani's chief political rivals, but none of the government envoys tasked with Taliban negotiations.

Ghani's allies in Washington insist Afghans should lead the peace process, and ostensibly the months-long push by the USA to engage the Taliban has been aimed at convincing them to negotiate with Kabul.

"Russian Federation has been calling for intra-Afghan dialogue, which would involve the government and the Taliban movement", Lavrov said, stressing the importance of the Moscow consultations on Afghanistan.

It was hard to find any influential critic of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul on Tuesday - not because he has become popular among his opponents overnight, but because nearly all government critics are in Moscow to meet with Taliban representatives.

Stanekzai said the Taliban want the crisis to be resolved in a peaceful way and that the group wants to play a significant role in the security of the region.

Taliban's Hanafi said Washington and the Taliban had also agreed that all foreign troops would eventually leave, and that Afghanistan would never be used as a base for attacks on the United States. Former Afghan President Karzai is one such figure who has transformed into a United States critic in recent years and has pushed for more Russian influence in Afghan politics.

Second, a long-term arrangement is needed to ensure security is maintained during the withdrawal process of U.S. forces and beyond.

The top USA diplomat also emphasised the importance of an intra-Afghan dialogue and the role of a ceasefire in ending the violence and creating the conditions for his government, the official added.

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Lead Taliban negotiator Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai told reporters that the movement did not want to rule alone but as part of "an intra Afghan Islamic system of consultation with all Afghans".

"I think that unless, and until, they're [the Taliban] willing to talk directly with the Afghan government, it's going to be very hard for the USA, as much as it is angling to get out of Afghanistan as soon as possible".

"The Russian ambassador to Afghanistan has knocked on the doors of all those invited to the meeting many times, urging for their participation", said Sebghatullah Ahmadi, spokesperson for Afghanistan's foreign ministry.

Participants gather before a conference of Afghan opposition and Taliban representatives, in Moscow, Russia, Feb. 5, 2019.

While the Taliban have been leaking apparent details of negotiations with the U.S., the State Department and White House have dismissed several claims made by the group regarding the recent talks.

One outcome of reduced US leverage is a greater role for Moscow, which has worked behind the scenes to solidify influence in Afghanistan. Pompeo also emphasised the importance of an intra-Afghan dialogue and the inclusion of the Afghan government in peace talks with the Taliban, according to Palladino. "Let hundreds of such meetings be held".

But that report was contradicted at the end of the talks in Moscow, with the Taliban official previously quoted by RIA, Abdul Salam Hanafi, denying that he had made the comment.

But images of Karzai and other powerful leaders attending prayer lead by a Taliban figure and dining with the militants invoked anger in Afghanistan.

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