Intra-Afghan peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban insurgency received a boost on Thursday at a Russian-hosted conference in Moscow.

A 16-member Afghan delegation led by Dr Abdullah Abdullah, chairperson of High Council for National Reconciliation, met with a 10-member Taliban delegation led by Mullah Baradar in an attempt to revive the Doha talks delayed after an increase in violence in Afghanistan.

The one-day meeting is the first in the series of complementary talks expected to be held across Russia, Qatar, and Turkey ahead of the planned withdrawal of the US troops on May 1, as agreed in the US deal signed with the Taliban last year.

Thursday’s gathering of the “extended Troika” included representatives of the US, China, and Pakistan. Representatives of Qatar and Turkey were invited as observers.

Addressing the opening ceremony, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov criticised a lack of progress in the Doha process despite months of talks and raised concerns over the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan.

“We are especially worried by the spring and summer period when traditionally we see more military and hostile activity in the region,” Mr Lavrov said referring to the “Spring Offensive” launched each year by the Taliban in March.

The Afghan delegation was criticised for its composition, particularly its lack of women’s representation. Habiba Sarabi, the sole Afghan woman leader on the team made compelling arguments on the urgent need for inclusion of women and minorities who have suffered during the conflict.

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