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Afghan politicians, Taliban representatives to hold peace talks in Moscow

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov believes that Washington is trying to take full control of talks with the Taliban movement

MOSCOW, February 5. /TASS/. Afghanistan’s representatives, including members of the Taliban (radical movement, outlawed in Russia), will discuss at a conference in Moscow on February 5-6 the situation in the republic and try to search for a peaceful way to settle the years-long conflict.

Delegates of Afghan diasporas from the Commonwealth of Independent States and Europe as well as representatives of Iran and Pakistan may take part in the forum. The meeting is organized by the Afghan diaspora of Russia.

Important step for settlement

The Afghan society welcomed the initiative to hold the event in the Russian capital. Afghan Prime Minister Abdullah Abdullah said the conference could become a step towards establishing peace "if it creates an opportunity for real peace talks." He also noted that representatives of the republic’s government plan to meet with Russian Ambassador to Kabul Alexander Mantytsky on Tuesday.

According to Afghan presidential hopeful Hanif Atmar, who will attend the forum, the upcoming event may become an important step and launch inclusive intra-Afghan talks.

Among Afghan politicians, who will take part in the peace talks, are former president Hamid Karzai, former vice president Mohammad Yunus Qanuni, former Balkh governor and Jamiat-e-Islami member Atta Mohammad Noor, Jamiat-e-Islami member Mohammad Ismail Khan, and head of National Islamic Front of Afghanistan Sayed Hamid Gailani, TOLOnews TV channel reported. Former Afghan president’s adviser Zia Massoud could also attend the event.

According to the report, the Taliban will take part in the conference. The delegation will be led by Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, former head of Taliban’s Qatar office. Some ten members of the radical movement plan to attend the Moscow talks, 1 TV reported.

On the eve of the conference, the Afghan diaspora in Moscow voiced hope that the dialogue will enhance mutual understanding between the Afghans and help bring the parties’ positions closer. The organizers say in case of success further meetings could be held.

The Russian Foreign Ministry hailed the initiative of holding the forum on February 5-6, noting that it fulfills the principle of a peace process led by the Afghans themselves. The conference is convened by the Afghan diaspora and is not a follow-up to the Moscow format on settling the crisis in Afghanistan, the latest meeting of which was held in November 2018. The ministry noted that with the goal of disrupting the event, fake invitations are disseminated in the Internet saying that the meeting will be held under the guise of the Moscow format, envisaging the participation of officials from regional states.

US forces’ pullout and Russia’s stance

The Moscow conference will be held amid US President Donald Trump’s statements on his plans to significantly cut US military presence in Afghanistan due to "successful" talks between Washington and the Taliban.

In January, Qatar’s capital of Doha hosted six-day consultations between the US and the Taliban. US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad said after the meeting that the parties made significant progress. The US media, in turn, reported that the parties backed a draft agreement on the US troop pullout.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov believes that Washington is trying to take full control of talks with the Taliban movement and conduct dialogue in secrecy, keeping the countries of the region in the dark. "If we look at the Afghan issue in broader terms, we will see that there is a need to search for a political solution apart from resolving security issues. Russia has been calling for intra-Afghan dialogue, which would involve the government and the Taliban movement," Lavrov said, stressing the importance of the Moscow consultations on Afghanistan.

Commenting on the US withdrawal plans, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said these words reflect only a temporary idea of the US leadership, which cannot be considered as final.

Representatives of the Afghan authorities and the public are cautious about the US plans. The Afghan government fears that after the possible departure of the foreign military the Taliban won’t have reasons to take part in the peace talks. Head of the High Peace Council of Afghanistan, Omar Daudzai, warned that a hasty US military contingent’s pullout would inevitably bring further bloodshed.