KABUL: Prominent Afghan politicians and Taliban delegates met in Moscow on Tuesday to revive peace talks aimed at ending the decades-long war. The Taliban have refused to engage with President Ashraf Ghani’s government, which they consider a puppet regime, and insist on a complete withdrawal of foreign troops from the country.
Zamir Kabolov, Russia’s special representative for Afghanistan, told delegates in Dari to find “a solution through the Afghan way” to end the fighting.
It is the second such gathering to be held in Moscow in recent months since the US appointed Zalmay Khalilzad as its special envoy for Taliban peace talks, even as President Donald Trump pushes for a troop drawdown.
The meeting is being held as Russia commemorates the 100th anniversary of its diplomatic ties with Afghanistan, which it invaded in the 1980s.
Ghani has not sent anyone from his government as a representative, but Kabul’s ambassador to Moscow will represent Afghanistan at the diplomatic ceremony, Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Sibghat Ahmadi told reporters.
The head of the High Peace Council, Karim Khalili, is in Moscow but not on behalf of the government, a spokesman for the body told Arab News.
Similar to the previous round of meetings in Russia, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai and other prominent Afghan politicians will be at the meeting.
The Taliban have sent a 14-member delegation. It is led by the militant group’s deputy head Abdul Ghani Baradar, who has previously held closed-door talks with Khalilzad in Doha.
A Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, told Arab News that the group’s delegates would hold “closed-door meetings with senior Russian officials.”
Afghan officials could not say if Kabul’s envoy to Moscow would meet the Taliban.
Taj Mohammad Ahmadzada, a political analyst, said the Moscow meeting showed Russia’s growing interest in Afghanistan.
“Russia has an interest in the region and Afghanistan has high importance for it. Any further deterioration of security here will impact Central Asia and subsequently Russia,” he told Arab News.
Fazl Rahman Orya, another commentator, said that Russia, the US, China and Europe had reached a consensus on the Afghan peace process. He added that meetings in Doha or Moscow did not cancel each other out, rather they were aimed at boosting dialogue on the Afghan side.
“The Moscow meeting is another step in growing efforts for start of a genuine intra-Afghan dialogue. It is another positive step, but we have to wait for its results,” he told Arab News.
A major meeting between the Taliban and Kabul was abruptly cancelled last month after disagreements with the host nation, Qatar, over names on the list.
It would have been the first meeting of its kind since the Taliban were ousted from power by a US-led coalition in 2001, and came amid mounting pressure from Washington to find a diplomatic solution to hostilities.