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Taliban to hold talks with Afghan-Russian officials in Moscow

28 May, 2019

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Afghan Taliban say their political affairs chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar will hold talks with senior Afghan politicians and Russian officials in Moscow over the next two days to discuss peace in Afghanistan.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said a 14-member Taliban delegation will hold discussions about future Afghanistan with a number of Afghan politicians in an Intra-Afghan Conference scheduled for May 29.

This is the second time Moscow will host the Taliban negotiators and Afghan political leaders including former President Hamid Karzai in nearly four months. Taliban and Afghan politicians met in Moscow in early February and the meeting had called for the complete withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.

The Moscow’s intra-Afghan conference has assumed importance following the postponement of the intra-Afghan dialogue scheduled to be held in Qatar on April 20-21 and the Taliban refusal to hold direct talks with the Kabul administration.

Controversy over participants forced Qatar to postpone the conference as Taliban had also opposed Kabul’s 250-member list. Taliban had blamed the Afghan government for the postponement of the Qatar’s intra-Afghan dialogue.

Karim Khalili, head of the High Peace Council, which is mandated by the government for peace talks with the armed opponents, presidential candidate Haneef Atmar, Jamiat-e-Islami leader Atta Muhammad Noor, former deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Karzai and former National Security Adviser are among a group of nearly 20 prominent leaders who will attend the meeting.

Moreover, the delegation of Islamic Emirate will also hold closed-door meetings with senior officials of the Russian Federation, the Taliban spokesman said in a statement.

The Taliban visit to Moscow is important as Baradar, who is considered as one of the few most influential leaders in the Taliban hierarchy, will sit face-to-face with the Afghan politicians for the first time since he was released by Pakistan in October. He was captured in Karachi in 2010 in a joint raid by the Pakistani and US agents.

The Taliban delegation will take part in a conference marking 100 years of diplomatic relations between Russia and Afghanistan being held on Tuesday.

The spokesperson of the Russian Foreign Ministry has said representatives of the Embassy of Afghanistan in Russia have also been invited to the event. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will deliver a welcoming address.

The Taliban delegation includes: Sher Abbas Stanekzai, Shahabuddin Delawar, Sayyed Rasool, Mawlawi Abdul Salam Hanafi, Mullah Muhammad Fazal Akhund, Mawlawi Amir Khan Muttaqqi, Mullah Abdul Latif Mansoor, Qari Deen Muhammad Hanif, Muhammad Sohail Shaheen, Mullah Khairullah Khairkhwa, Mawlawi Muhammad Nabi Omari, Mullah Noorullah Noori and Mawlawi Muhammad Hassan.

The United Nations last month temporarily lifted travel ban on the 14-member Taliban negotiation team to facilitate them travel to other countries in connection with peace efforts.

The US however has refused to agree to a withdrawal as part of an eventual deal until the Taliban put in place security guarantees, a ceasefire, and other commitments including an “intra-Afghan” dialogue with the Kabul government and other Afghan representatives.

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