Taliban to attend Afghan peace talks in Moscow

Taliban to attend Afghan peace talks in Moscow

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Doha: The rebel group said on Monday that senior Taliban members will participate in talks with the Kabul government in Moscow this week to discuss the future of war-torn Afghanistan.

The two sides are scheduled to meet at the invitation of Russia in May before the deadline for US President Joe Biden to decide whether to end the two-year military intervention in Afghanistan.

The US State Department said Monday that Washington s special envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, will also attend the meeting in Moscow as part of ongoing US efforts “to encourage and support the peace process.”

The Thursday talks “will complement all other international efforts to support the Afghan peace process, and also reflects the international community s concerns about the progress to date,” State Department spokeswoman Jalina Porter told reporters.

The US has encouraged the Afghan leadership to work towards establishing an “inclusive” government and peace accord amid fears of rapid Taliban gains once US troops leave.

“A high-level delegation of 10 members of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, led by (Taliban co-founder) Mullah Baradar Akhund… will attend the meeting held in Moscow,” tweeted Mohammad Naeem, spokesman for the Taliban office in Qatar.

Despite the tension with Russia, the United States welcomed Moscow’s role and strengthened diplomatic consultations with other rivals, China.

Biden is in the final review of whether to comply with the agreement negotiated between the Taliban and predecessor Donald Trump. Donald Trump hopes to withdraw the last U.S. military from Afghanistan by May.

The Biden administration has stated that it hopes to carefully study the Trump agreement and its impact on Afghanistan and regional stability.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrote a letter to Afghan leaders encouraging them to consider a “new, inclusive government”.

He also proposed that talks take place within weeks in Turkey to seal a comprehensive peace deal with the Taliban.

Turkey plans to host an Afghan peace conference in Istanbul in April, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said last week.

The Russian-Turkish initiative will coincide with Qatar’s talks between the Afghan government in Doha, which has been suspended for a long time since September 2020.

Cavusoglu said that he does not necessarily want an immediate breakthrough in the Istanbul Conference.

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