ISLAMABAD (Nov 5, 2018): An Afghan delegation will attend international talks on the 17-year war-torn country in Russia this month, reports AFP citing officials.
The development comes as US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Ambassador Alice Wells visits Islamabad tomorrow (November 6). She will hold meeting with senior officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), said spokesperson Dr. Mohammad Faisal on the social media.
Moscow announced Saturday it would host the event on November 9 in the Russian capital — even as the United States engages the Taliban in nascent bilateral talks to end the 17-year conflict.
While Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, a government body responsible for reconciliation efforts with the militants, would send four representatives to the meeting, according to spokesperson Sayed Ihsan Taheri, Pakistan would ‘definitely’ attend as it has been invited, foreign ministry spokesperson told AFP.
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday met his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev in Shanghai, China, which is also expected to attend the Russian-led international talks.
And US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Ambassador Alice Wells will be visiting Islamabad tomorrow (November 6). She will hold meeting with senior officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), said spokesperson Dr. Mohammad Faisal on the social media.
The aim would be to follow up on discussions between Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo regarding Afghan peace efforts and Pakistan’s assistance– both parties in principle agree on Afghan-led political solution.
The Afghan foreign ministry, however, remained evasive about whether it would dispatch a delegation to the Moscow conference, which will focus on kickstarting peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban.
“We are still negotiating with the Russian officials,” spokesperson Sebaghtullah Ahmadi said.
“We welcome any peace effort that is Afghan-led.”
Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid said the militant group was still mulling whether to go.
Moscow has also invited representatives from the United States as well as India, Iran, China, and five former Soviet republics in Central Asia.
The US embassy in Kabul did not immediately respond to the news agency’s request for comment.
The Moscow meeting was initially scheduled to take place in September, but was postponed after Kabul insisted that the process should be Afghan-led. At that time, the Taliban had said it would send senior members to Russia for peace talks on Afghanistan.
“Our leaders have accepted Russia’s invitation to participate in Russia-led peace talks,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid had said.
But Afghan President Ashraf Ghani while supporting the idea of a Moscow meeting in principle suggested postponing it in order to come up with a consolidated position.
The meeting comes at a sensitive time.
Newly appointed US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has been trying to convince the Taliban to agree to negotiate an end to the war and there are fears the Russian multi-lateral meeting could derail those efforts.
Russia says still waiting for Afghanistan to respond to Taliban talks invitation.
A US government watchdog last week said Kabul’s control of Afghanistan had slipped in recent months as local security forces suffered record casualties while making minimal or no progress against the Taliban.