Russian Federation brings together Afghan officials, Taliban in talks

Taliban join Moscow talks to kick start Afghanistan negotiations

The talks, known as the "Moscow format" will include a "high-level" delegation from the Taliban as well as a delegation of Afghanistan's "High Peace Council", along with twelve countries, and will mark the first time an Indian delegation has been present at the table in talks with the Taliban representatives based in Doha.

Russian Federation says the Moscow talks marked the first time that a Taliban delegation had taken part in such high-level worldwide meeting.

The spokesman said that on one hand, New Delhi accuses various resisting forces including Taliban of being Islamic "radicals" and calls them a threat to world peace but on the other hand engages itself with them and calls the talks non-official.

Reportedly, Friday's meet will see the participation of a five-member Taliban delegation led by Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai, the head of the Taliban's political council in Qatar. The Taliban is banned from operating in Russian Federation as it is classified as a "terrorist organisation".

"We discussed the subject of direct talks with the Taliban and asked them to choose the place and the starting time", said Ehsan Tahiri, High Peace Council spokesman, according to Russia's RIA news agency.

A State Department spokesperson confirmed on Wednesday that in coordination with the Afghan government, the US embassy in Moscow "will send a representative to the working level to observe the discussions".

Pakistan and Afghanistan on Thursday discussed plans for a complete return of the Afghan nationals to their country in the second bilateral meeting of the Refugee Working Group (WG) at the Ministry of SAFRON.

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The Russian Foreign Ministry said that "we reaffirm our position on the lack of alternative to a political settlement in Afghanistan and the need for active coordinated efforts by Afghanistan's neighbouring countries and regional partners". This will be the first appearance by the Taliban at such an global conference, Zakharova emphasized. "Therefore, we won't hold negotiations with it. Kabul didn't even send a representative to this conference".

The Russian government welcomed India's decision to participate in the talks on November 9.

Originally opposed to the idea of holding talks with the Taliban, Afghanistan's government had pulled out of the scheduled negotiations on September 4. Pakistan's foreign office has confirmed Islamabad's participation in the talks. Instead, the Afghan government sent members of the High Peace Council, a body set up to try to get peace negotiations started.

Meanwhile, Taliban representatives in Qatar held a preliminary meeting with USA envoy Zalmay Khalilzad last month to discuss the group's conditions to end the 17-year war.

Newly appointed United States peace envoy Khalilzad has been trying to convince the Taliban to agree to negotiate an end to the war and there are fears the Russian meeting could derail those efforts.

Talking to the Taliban is ample proof that the Taliban are not "terrorists" but the real stake holders in Afghanistan and without their participation, no peace can be achieved in the region. USA troops have been fighting in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion that was launched to dismantle al-Qaida and topple the Taliban.

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