Russia to host international ‘peace talks’ on Afghanistan on Nov 9

November 6, 2018

TEHRAN -In a bid to broker peace between the Afghan government and the Taliban, Moscow will be hosting international talks on Afghanistan on November 9, which is likely to see participation of representatives from the Afghan government, the Taliban and regional countries.

The announcement was made by the Russian foreign ministry on Saturday. The conference, which was scheduled to be held earlier, was postponed by Moscow after the Afghan government turned down the invitation arguing that the peace talks must be owned and led by Afghanistan.

“It will be the first time that a delegation of the political office of the Taliban movement in Doha will take part in international talks (at) such a level,” the statement said, adding that the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and the Taliban have agreed to send delegations to the conference.

Afghan foreign ministry, however, has not yet confirmed its participation in the talks. The ministry spokesman was quoted by AFP saying that they were in talks with Russian officials about the conference and had not reached an agreement yet.

According to sources, Russia has quietly reached out to many influential Afghan political leaders, inviting them to the conference, including the likes of former president Hamid Karzai and former Balkh governor Ata Mohammad Noor.

Karzai’s spokesman confirmed that the former president will be travelling to Moscow as “any opportunity for peace talks with the Taliban must not be ignored”. Noor, who believes that the single fixed formula prescribed by one foreign power (U.S.) will not help the peace process, has also agreed to participate in the talks.

The conference will see participation from 12 countries including India, Iran, China, Pakistan and five former Soviet republics in Central Asia, according to reports.

“The Russian side reaffirms its position that there is no alternative to a political settlement in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan,” the statement added.

The deteriorating security situation has pushed Ashraf Ghani government on the back foot, emboldening insurgents to carry out attacks across the country. According to recent studies, the control of Afghan government forces has diminished alarmingly with insurgents upping the ante.

Now with general elections approaching, Ghani, who has decided to run for office again, has been trying to woo the group to join peace talks. The unprecedented three-day Eid ceasefire had rekindled hopes of a breakthrough but it turned out a chimera

In recent months, the U.S. has also renewed efforts to engage the group in peace talks, with newly appointed ‘peace envoy’ Zalmay Khalilzad leading the efforts. Taliban representatives have met with U.S. officials at least twice in recent months, most recently on October 12. However, it has proved futile.

Russia, which has traditional rivalry with the U.S. in Afghanistan, earlier hosted an international conference on Afghanistan in April 2017. The U.S had rejected the invitation. The upcoming talks are on a bigger scale with larger participation, which is likely to irk Washington even more, as they will feel virtually sidelined in Afghanistan.

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