Taliban, Afghan politicians to hold peace talks in Moscow

The Moscow meeting may isolate President Ghani from peace process. (Reuters)
Updated 03 February 2019

Taliban, Afghan politicians to hold peace talks in Moscow

  • President Ashraf Ghani not joining discussions in Russia
  • Mohammed Hanif Atmar, Ghani’s main rival for the presidency, will also attend the talks

KABUL: Taliban delegates will hold their first meeting with Afghan opposition figures in Moscow on Tuesday, in a move that could “isolate” President Ashraf Ghani from the peace process.

Government spokesman Sibghat Ahmadi said the talks were “not in Afghanistan’s interest,” and accused Moscow of breaking past pledges to Kabul to facilitate direct meetings with the insurgents.

The Taliban’s senior negotiator, Sher Mohammed Abbas Stanekzai, who represented them in discussions with US diplomats in Qatar in January, will lead the group’s delegation.

He, along with the Taliban’s ex-ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef, will meet with Afghanistan’s former president, Hamid Karzai, and a number of powerful opposition politicians, including Atta Muhammad Noor and Mohammed Mohaqiq

Mohammed Hanif Atmar, Ghani’s main rival for the presidency, will also attend the talks.

“We consider this meeting in Moscow a significant step in intra-Afghan dialogue,” Atmar said in a statement.

Afghan lawyer Raihana Azad, who is also attending, doubted the discussions would result in any substantive outcome because the government was refusing to participate.

“We want lasting peace and want transparent discussions, but this meeting will not yield much as the government will be absent,” she told Arab News.



The Russian Embassy in Kabul, meanwhile, said: “We hope that intra-Afghan dialogue will lead to understanding, and bring the warring sides in the conflict closer together.”

Zamir Kabulov, Moscow’s envoy to Afghanistan, is thought to have facilitated the meeting.

While Azad doubted its significance due to the government’s absence, some experts believe Ghani’s stance could backfire.

Political analyst Hamidullah Hotak said: “The government’s reluctance to attend the meeting will isolate it from the peace process.”

He added that Ghani, who is standing for re-election in July’s presidential race, had “failed to bring consensus among Afghans,” and wanted to control the peace process “to use as an achievement for his campaign.”

Due to objections from the Taliban, government representatives have also been excluded from recent talks between the group and US diplomats in recent months.

The Ghani administration had privately expressed anger at the US team, led by diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad, for their failure to persuade the insurgents to allow them to attend. Tensions in Kabul are especially high, amid growing concern that President Donald Trump could push ahead with plans to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan in the coming months.

Protesters clash with Indonesian police after election loss

Updated 58 sec ago

Protesters clash with Indonesian police after election loss

JAKARTA, Indonesia: Supporters of an unsuccessful presidential candidate clashed with security forces and set fire to a police dormitory and vehicles in the Indonesian capital on Wednesday after the release of official election results.
The situation turned violent late Tuesday when protesters tried to force their way into the offices of the election supervisory agency and clashes continued through the night, National Police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo said. More than 20 suspected provocateurs were arrested, he said Wednesday.
KompasTV showed protesters throwing rocks, a paramilitary police dormitory on fire, and hundreds of riot police in a central neighborhood.
Indonesia’s Election Commission on Tuesday said President Joko Widodo had won a second term with 55.5% of the vote in the April 17 election.
Former special forces general Prabowo Subianto has refused to accept the results and declared himself the winner. His campaign plans to challenge the election in the Constitutional Court. They allege massive fraud but have provided no credible evidence.
Jakarta police spokesman Argo Yuwono said police used tear gas and water cannon against protesters who threw rocks, molotov cocktails and burning projectiles.
The government had deployed some 50,000 police and soldiers in Jakarta in anticipation of protests, said Yuwono. Many residents have left the city and parts of the downtown are closed to traffic with the election supervisory agency and election commission barricaded with razor wire.
In the past week, authorities have arrested three pro-Subianto activists on suspicion of treason, said Prasetyo, including a retired general and former commander of Indonesia’s special forces. Police allege there was a plot to seize crucial government buildings in Jakarta.