U.S., Taliban to Join Russia-Hosted Afghan Peace Talks

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The Moscow meeting on Friday will be the first time since 2001 that Indian representatives, in this case former Indian ambassador to Afghanistan Amar Sinha and head of the government-funded Indian Council of World Affairs think tank T. C. A. Raghavan, will be sitting at the same table as the Taliban.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told AFP that the militant group was sending five representatives. The meeting was also attended by the representatives of the Afghan High Peace Council - a body affiliated with the government and tasked with finding a diplomatic solution to the Afghan crisis.

"The Americans have realized that we should solve the Afghan problems through negotiations", he said, admitting that the talks are at the very early stages and so far amounted to "confidence-building measures".

India has confirmed its participation in a meeting on Afghanistan hosted by Russian Federation on Friday where five representatives of the Taliban* will also be present. Khalilzad leads the USA mission for Afghan peace in the area.

Haji Din Mohammad Azizullah, head of the Kabul delegation, confirmed that he had "brief talks" with the Taliban members at a working lunch, characterising the talks as "friendly", according to Anadolu Agency.

"The Russian side reaffirms its position that there is no alternative to a political settlement in Afghanistan and neighboring countries, as well as Afghanistan's regional partners, need to actively work and coordinate their efforts in this direction", Zakharova told a weekly news conference in Moscow.

Afghan delegation member Hajji Din Mohammad told journalists that Russian Federation invited them to a new meeting but that "agreement was not reached on holding direct talks" with the Taliban, RIA Novosti news agency reported. "Given how keen Kabul is to launch a peace process, amid a strengthening insurgency and intensifying violence, it recognizes that any meeting about a peace process with Taliban participation is worth attending".

Initially, the meeting was proposed for September 4 but it was called off after the Afghan government pulled out of it. India had also declined an invitation to the meeting then. "It's shown it is willing and capable of promoting national reconciliation in Afghanistan".

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File image of Afghan Taliban.

The Moscow meeting will examine ways to "initiate direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban", a spokesman for the High Peace Council, Sayed Ehsan Tahiri, said by phone.

Speaking to reporters in Moscow Stanikzai said: "Our demand for the peace process has two parts, the first part is with Americans; all those matters which are related to Americans like the withdrawal of their forces, the black list and officially recognizing our political office (in Qatar) and other issues which are related to the Americans; they should be discussed with the Americans; they should be discussed with America on the table".

He said the participation of both Afghan leaders and the Taliban was an "important contribution" aimed at creating "favourable conditions for the start of direct talks".

Ghani and the USA are struggling to bring the group to the negotiating table.

Beyond the political outreach, USA military officials have recently accused Russian Federation of supplying the Taliban with weapons.

The Taliban statement said the movement sought "positive and constructive relations with other countries" and welcomed worldwide assistance in aiding reconstruction.