Taliban join Moscow talks to kick start Afghanistan negotiations

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

Moscow is holding a meeting to discuss the state of affairs in Afghanistan on November 9 (Friday).

As the second round of the Moscow format consultations on Afghanistan ended in the Russian capital, the Afghan government and Taliban still seemed far apart and unlikely to negotiate unmediated without a breakthrough. Both sides had called upon the global community to join efforts to thwart any external interference in Afghanistan, to restore its economy, contribute to sustaining peace and security, economic and political development of a stable, secure, united, prosperous and independent Afghanistan.

Haji Din Mohammad Azizullah, head of the Kabul delegation, confirmed that he had "brief talks" with the Taliban members at a working lunch, characterising the talks as "friendly", according to Anadolu Agency. It would mark the first time an Indian delegation would be at the table with a Taliban delegation from its political office in Doha.

A United States government watchdog last week said Kabul´s control of Afghanistan had slipped in recent months as local security forces suffered heavy casualties while making minimal or no progress against the Taliban.

Though it was expected to produce little, Friday's meeting nonetheless marked a significant diplomatic victory for Moscow, which has been seeking a more prominent role in Afghanistan.

They will not hold "any sort of negotiations" with the delegation of Kabul administration, he said. "We did not say that". "India's consistent policy has been that such efforts should be Afghan-led, Afghan-owned, and Afghan-controlled and with the participation of the Government of Afghanistan", the MEA said.

The Moscow conference comes as Washington already has initiated a direct dialogue process with the Taliban, meeting a long-running insurgent demand.

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US President Donald Trump launched a revised Afghan plan more than a year ago that saw the US scrap any timetables for a US pullout and re-commit thousands more troops to Afghanistan, majority dedicated to training and advising local forces.

"The INC believes that the Afghan peace process should be Afghan led and Afghan driven and unfortunately the Afghan government is not on the table in Moscow", Congress leader Manish Tewari told The Hindu.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had said as the talks opened that Russia hoped "through joint efforts to open a new page in the history of Afghanistan".

On Saturday the foreign ministry of Pakistan said the recent release of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar was at the request of Khalilzad.

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, also known as Mullah Baradar Akhund or Mullah Brother, is a co-founder of the Taliban movement in Afghanistan and was the deputy of Mullah Mohammed Omar, the founding leader of the Taliban, whose death was confirmed in October 2016.

"His release was facilitated by Pakistan at the USA request in order to move forward on the shared objective of pursuing a political settlement in Afghanistan".

Pakistan, which has always been accused of providing support to the Afghan Taliban, would "definitely" attend, foreign ministry spokesman Muhammad Faisal told AFP.

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