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Afghan Govt Will Not Attend Peace Talks in Moscow

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The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) said the Afghan government will not participate in the upcoming peace meeting on Afghanistan in the Russian capital Moscow next month. The ministry said government firmly believes in intra-Afghan dialogues, reported Tolo News (Afghanistan).

According to officials, the Kabul government has not received a formal invitation to attend the talks so far.

“Any regional consensus about Pakistan needs to be structured in axis of the Afghan government. The peace process definitely needs to be carried out under the leadership of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. We will not participate in the Moscow talks,” said MoFA deputy spokesman Sibghat Ahmadi.

However, a former Taliban political figure Sayed Akbar Agha said Taliban will attend the meeting and will start discussions on the prospects of peace in Afghanistan with countries in the region.

“Taliban has agreed on the Moscow talks and they will attend it. These talks are related to Asia. Foreign forces have come to Asian countries and there are concerns among these countries about it. All these countries want foreign forces to withdraw from Afghanistan,” he said.

There are reports that Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, head of Taliban’s political office, will lead the Taliban’s delegation in the talks.

But a perception exists that taking the Afghan peace talks to different venues in the west and east will complicate the reconciliation process in the country.

“Today the Taliban are ready to talk with the US and also they are ready to talk with Russia, but those who claim to be Afghans and want to bring peace in Afghanistan or talk about the peace process should talk to Afghans. However, they are not ready to talk with the legitimate government of Afghanistan,” former Afghan envoy to Syria Mohammadullah Haidari said.

Moscow prepares for the talks at a time that previously Alice Wells, the US’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs, met top Taliban officials in Doha.

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Representatives of the Taliban movement will attend the Moscow format of Afghan reconciliation talks scheduled for September 4, Russian Foreign Ministry's Second Asian Department Director Zamir Kabulov said, reported Sputnik News (Russia).

Kabulov told Sputnik that Russia expected the Taliban to participate in the upcoming conference. Later in the day, the Wall Steet Journal reported citing sources that Taliban representatives had agreed to participate in this meeting. Afghan Ambassador to Russia Abdul Qayyum Kochai told Sputnik that Kabul did not mind the participation of the Taliban in the meeting.

"Yes, they will come on September 4. Preparation for the meeting is now underway," Kabulov told the Izvestiya newspaper.

Russian Foreign Ministry noted that Moscow maintains contacts with the Taliban only to ensure the safety of Russian citizens in Afghanistan and to encourage this group to join the process of national reconciliation. In March 2018, Kabulov said that contacts between Moscow and the Taliban had been established several years ago, when Russia was seriously concerned about the possibility of terrorist threats to Russian overseas institutions and citizens. The diplomat stressed the importance to clarify the plans of the Taliban leadership towards the Russians, and Moscow received assurances that the Taliban had no hostile intentions towards Russian citizens and institutions.

The latest diplomatic efforts on Afghanistan come amid Kabul’s bids to reach a lasting ceasefire. On Sunday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced a conditional ceasefire with the Taliban to mark the upcoming Eid al-Adha Muslim holiday. The ceasefire began and is projected to last until November 19. The president stressed that the ceasefire would be established only if the radical movement agreed to cease hostilities. However, local media reported that the Taliban movement kidnapped passengers travelling on three buses in Afghanistan's northern Kunduz province despite the announcement of the ceasefire.

In June, the two sides declared a ceasefire timed to the Eid al-Fitr holiday. The government then prolonged the duration of the truce. The Taliban, however, did not follow suit.

Afghanistan's government forces have long been fighting Taliban insurgency, as well as the Islamic State terrorist group (Daesh, outlawed in Russia), with the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces conducting joint counterterrorist operations across the country.

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