Taliban: Russia meeting 'not about direct talks' with Kabul

Taliban join Moscow talks to kick start Afghanistan negotiations

Taliban at Afghanistan talks table today, Delhi sending ‘non-officials’

Senior officials at the foreign ministry told The Nation that the USA had contacted Pakistan over the plans to have a trilateral meeting among Pakistan, China and Afghanistan in coming days, urging Islamabad to refrain from giving Beijing "too much importance" on the Afghanistan issue.

On Tuesday, the Taliban also confirmed it would send a delegation to the meeting.

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The United States and the Taliban are both set to attend for the first time a multilateral conference Russian Federation will host Friday in Moscow to discuss how to achieve peace and national reconciliation in Afghanistan. "For the first time, a delegation from the Taliban's Political Office in Doha will participate in an worldwide meeting of this level".

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid reiterated Thursday there is no intention to engage with Afghan delegates at Friday's meeting. "All others are facilitators and we should not deny support from any country (for Afghanistan peace)", he added.

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The meeting was billed by Russian Federation as an attempt to bring the Taliban and the USA -backed Afghan government closer to direct peace talks, though little was expected to come out of the event, which both sides have emphasized is not a formal negotiation.

Responding to a question about the Moscow meeting, Mr Palladino said the United States believed that all countries should support direct dialogue between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban to reach an end to the war. After the Afghan government cancelled its participation, India too followed suit on the pretext that it would be untenable for New Delhi's representatives to share the table with a Taliban delegation - when Afghanistan's democratically-elected government would be staying away.

The Afghan foreign ministry has emphasised that the council does not represent the Afghan government at the meeting, however.

Mujahid defended the Taliban's participation in Moscow meeting, saying it will not be chaired or co-chaired by the Kabul government unlike previous such global gatherings. Its representatives won't meet directly with the Taliban officials, he said.

Reportedly, Friday's meet will see the participation of a five-member Taliban delegation led by Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai, the head of the Taliban's political council in Qatar. The U.S., which has accused Russian Federation of arming the Taliban, has poured more troops into Afghanistan and waged a series of air strikes as it seeks to regain the military edge.

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Meanwhile, Taliban representatives in Qatar held a preliminary meeting with United States envoy Zalmay Khalilzad last month to discuss the group's conditions to end the 17-year war.

In his speech during the Moscow Summit, Haji Din Mohammad urged the Taliban group to positively respond to the offers of the Afghan government regarding peace process, emphasizing that the ongoing conflict claims the lives of ordinary Afghans.

The Taliban delegation reiterated its demand for the withdrawal of USA forces from Afghanistan where they support the Kabul government.

"India's consistent policy has been that such efforts should be Afghan-led, Afghan-owned, and Afghan-controlled, and with the participation of the government of Afghanistan". Khalilzad leads the US mission for Afghan peace in the area.

The Afghan government's rejection to participate in the meet on September 4 has been speculated to be a result of USA pressure.

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But Russia is also concerned a US failure in Afghanistan will see it become a renewed source of terrorism, and is already seeking to block the flow of narcotics from the country.

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