A Taliban delegation and delegate behind the Afghan government participated in multinational peace talks in Moscow on Friday, the first…
A Taliban delegation and delegate behind the Afghan government participated in multinational peace talks in Moscow on Friday, the first time such a meeting took place in public.
Moscow also suddenly spoke of Russia’s increased role in Afghanistan, 30 years after Soviet troops left the country after a disastrous war there.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov opened the meeting in a gilt conference room at Moscow Presidential Hotel where the two delegations sat around a circular table with Deputy Foreign Ministers from other regional countries including China, Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.
The meeting was charged by Russia as an attempt to bring the Taliban and the US backed the Afghan government closer to direct peace talks.
“Russia, as organizer of this conference, sees its role as part of Afghanistan’s regional partners and friends gathered at this table to offer every possible help to launch a constructive dialogue between the Afghans,” said Lavrov.
However, a little was expected to come out of the event, as both sides have stressed, is not a formal negotiation.
Repeated after two hours talks, Taliban spokesman Muhammad Sohail Shaheen repeated the group’s position that no direct negotiations are possible until US troops leave Afghanistan. Shaheen said that the faman delegation from the Taliban diplomatic office had not spoken directly with the government-guaranteed senders from Afghanistan’s high peace councils.
“It’s not a negotiation,” said Shaheen to reporters. “They came here to express their views, and we came here to express our views.” It is. “
Habiba Sarabi, High Representative of the High Council of Peace and a former Afghan Minister for Women’s Rights, told ABC News that the two delegations had spoken but only exchanged pleasant.
“Just talk. Nice conversation,” said Sarabi and noted that it was her first time meeting with the Taliban delegation.
“Like,” how are you? Perhaps you are taking another representative for the next time, “she said, talking about the Taliban’s extremely conservative attitude towards women’s rights.
The United States and the Afghan government declined invitations to formally attend the meeting on the grounds that they only support direct talks between the government and the Taliban. Instead, the Afghan government sent the four members of the High Peace Council, a body set up to seek peace negotiations. The US Embassy in Moscow sent its first political secretary, Jacob Choi, to observe the incident.
Although it was expected to produce a little, the Friday meeting discovered a significant diplomatic victory for Moscow, which has sought a more prominent role in Afghanistan.
In addition to the political uprising, US military officials have recently accused Russia of delivering the Taliban with weapons. Russia denies that claim, but experts believe that such deliveries can be about building a relationship with the group and helping them fight Islamic state militants who have been seeking a foothold in Afghanistan.
The Russian effort comes as the Trump administration sees its own renewed pressure for peace talks contrasting with an intensified war in Afghanistan. This week is the White House Special Representative for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, Touring the Region, the task of pushing the Taliban and the government to form negotiating groups. The United States is backing a call from Afghanistan’s president Ashraf Ghani for the government to talk to the Taliban without preconditions.
The Taliban has hitherto rejected Ghana’s offer and insisted on direct talks with the United States
The gloomy reality of the war, however, gave an unchanged background on Friday. Even when the talks began, officials in Afghanistan said a Taliban attack had killed 10 soldiers. The attack on an army post in Takhar province occurred as the US envoy, Khalilzad arrived in Afghanistan to kick his peace trip.
Sarabi said that the Kabul delegation had come to Moscow “to talk to all the members of the meeting” and that they wanted it to lead to direct negotiations.
Russia’s return in Afghan affairs, in part, reflects a broader strategy to strengthen its appearance as a world-class power broker.
In addition to its intervention in Syria, the Kremlin has recently become more involved in Libya and has even proposed, so far without success, as a possible new place for Israel-Palestinian talks.
But Russia is also worried that a US failure in Afghanistan will see it become a renewed source of terrorism and is already trying to block drug flow from the country. Initial talks, Lavrov warned the Islamic state wants Afghanistan to become a “bridgehead” to expand to Central Asia.
Taliban spokesman Shaheen called Russia’s role “positive”. He also denied that it had delivered any weapons to the group.
Smile and warm handshakes between Russian and Afghan delegations somehow relieved the difficult story of the event. The Soviet Union’s nine-year war in Afghanistan destroyed the country and killed at least 14,500 Soviet troops and 90,000 of the Mujahedeen warriors who fought against them. The UN estimates that 700,000 to 1.3 million people were killed in the fighting.
This story took place personally at the Moscow Hotel, where the High Council delegation was led by Haji Deen Mohammad, a former Mujahedeen commander, now sitting in a traditional dress in the middle of the lobby’s large Soviet interior.
“He is happy to be here, they are all happy to be here,” said Afghanistan’s ambassador to Russia, Dr. Abdul Qayyum Kochai.
But Kochai expressed reservations about how significant Russia’s peace effort could be. He said Afghanistan would be grateful if Russia “lastingly” tried to get peace, but acknowledged that he was not sure.
“I do not know. I wish. I wish,” Kochai said.