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Afghanistan to hold international peace conference

30 May, 2017

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ISLAMABAD: Afghanistan will hold an international conference on peace, security and reconciliation next week in Kabul at a time when Taliban insurgents have intensified fighting and killed dozens of policemen over the past few days, a senior Afghan diplomat said on Monday.

Zardasht Shams, deputy head of the mission at the Afghan Embassy in Islamabad, said nearly 20 countries have been invited to the conference on June 6.

"The Kabul Process meeting will be held by the instructions of the President (Dr Ashraf Ghani) to bring various processes/meetings on Afghanistan under one umbrella," Shams told reporters.

He said anti-terrorism cooperation is also one of the key issues to be discussed by senior diplomats and officials.

A Pakistani official said Pakistan will participate in the line with "our policy to go on all Afghan meetings" to contribute in peace and reconciliation in the war-ravaged country.

Along with neighbours, the US, India, Saudi Arabia, Japan, UK, Russia, UAE, Qatar, Turkey, Germany, France and China have been invited to the conference and explore ways how to help Kabul promote peace and security, Shams said.

He said the UN and European Union will also attend the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned meeting.

Shams said President Ashraf Ghani had in fact floated the idea to start the "Kabul Process" to keep all the stakeholders on board about the situation in Afghanistan.

To a question about the level of the participation, he said some countries could attend at the level of deputy minister, and special advisors or their representatives.

Kabul is holding the conference weeks after Russia hosted diplomats from 11 countries as part of its initiative to involve regional countries and to find solution to the Afghan problem in the region.

The Moscow conference in mid-April had agreed to Afghan proposal to host the next meeting of the Russian-led initiative in Kabul. However, the Afghan government has now launched a new process instead of focusing on the Russian-led peace initiative. The US had refused to attend the April meet on a plea that it was not consulted before the invitation was sent and that it is unaware of the agenda.

Political watchers had their own point that Washington was worried at the proactive Russian diplomacy in the region and that is why it stayed away from the meeting that was third Russia had hosted in five months.

The Russians are now publicly opposing the continuation of the war in Afghanistan and its diplomats have even backed the Taliban call for the withdrawal of foreign troops. China, Pakistan and Iran are concerned at the US military option and no clear approach towards political process and reconciliation with the Taliban.

Diplomats aware of the "Kabul Process" believe that actually the US has taken this initiative to "sideline the Moscow Process". They believe the Russian initiative has received support of almost all neighbouring countries, which are directly affected due to instability in Afghanistan.

"Basically the new US administration wants that instead of other processes all initiatives of peace and security in Afghanistan should be led from Kabul," an Islamabad-based diplomat said on Monday.

"The US wants to focus on increasing troops and not so much interested in talks with Taliban," he opined. He added, "Russia is not happy (with this new initiative) but will attend at low level... may be at the level of the country's deputy ambassador in Kabul."

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