Russia flaunts Taliban talks snubbed by Afghan government

Russia flaunts Taliban talks snubbed by Afghan government

Seventeen years after launching its war to oust Taliban insurgents in Аfghanistan, the United States is discovering that an old adversary has wedged itself into the conflict: Russia.

The foreign ministry in Moscow has announced it plans to host peace talks in the Russian capital this week, in a move that may alarm Western officials, and mirrors Russia’s resurgent role in conflicts throughout the wider Middle East.

A foreign ministry statement released on Friday said 11 countries including the United States had been invited on November 9, touting that “it will be the first time that a delegation from the Taliban’s political office in Doha will attend such a high-level international meeting”.

A source close to the Afghan president told The National that the government will not send an official delegation. “Members from the High Peace Council (HPC) will be attending the talks in their own capacity,” he said on the condition of anonymity, referring to the independent body of religious leaders and prominent Afghans, assigned to facilitate negotiations with the insurgency.

In a statement issued on Monday, the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs also voiced criticism over the meetings, adding its representatives would not join the talks in Moscow. “Our agreement with the Russians is that this meeting should lead to direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. However, only a group of people were invited and that reflects the intention of Taliban who are not yet willing to negotiate peace with the government,” foreign ministry spokesperson Sibghat Ahmadi said.

The Taliban have confirmed their presence at the talks, adding in clarifications that they will not negotiate at the meeting.

“This conference is not about negotiating with any particular side rather it is a conference about holding comprehensive discussions on finding a peaceful solution to the Afghan quandary and ending the American occupation,” Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesperson said in a statement issued by the group on Tuesday.

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