Russian Federation brings together India and the Taliban at the negotiating table

Russian Federation brings together India and the Taliban at the negotiating table

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.

Russian Federation says the Moscow talks marked the first time that a Taliban delegation had taken part in such high-level global meeting.

Zakharova revealed that the Taliban's five-member delegation would come from its Qatar-based "political office".

He also shared the demands of Taliban for reconciliation which included establishment of environment of trust, removal of USA sanctions on Taliban, specifying a safe zone for peace talks, opening of a formal office for Taliban, worldwide community's guarantee of peace talks, and release of prisoners.

Bringing the Taliban and Afghanistan on the table is seen as another major diplomatic win for Moscow, since the Islamist group had consistently refused to negotiate with the elected Afghan government, calling it an "American puppet".

The Afghan government did not send direct representatives to Friday's talks, electing instead to send members of the peace council "in its own capacity as a national but non-government institution".

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The meeting, which underlines Russia's desire to be involved in any settlement in Afghanistan, took place as US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad prepared for a fresh round of talks with Taliban officials in Qatar.

China, Pakistan, Iran, India, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan are among other participants.

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

Talking to the Taliban is ample proof that the Taliban are not "terrorists" but the real stake holders in Afghanistan and without their participation, no peace can be achieved in the region.

They will not hold "any sort of negotiations" with the delegation of Kabul administration, he said. This will be the first appearance by the Taliban at such an worldwide conference, Zakharova emphasized.

Emerging following two hours of talks, Taliban spokesman Muhammad Sohail Shaheen reiterated the group's position that no direct negotiations are possible until US troops leave Afghanistan.

The last such meeting proposed for September 4 was called off at the last moment after the Afghan government pulled out.

It would be better for New Delhi to invite the militant leadership of J&K and Pakistan for the talks if it is really interested in bringing stability in the entire region.

A Taliban delegation met with USA peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Qatar in October to discuss ending the Afghan conflict.

Newly appointed U.S. peace envoy Khalilzad has been trying to convince the Taliban to agree to negotiate an end to the war and there are fears the Russian meeting could derail those efforts.

A United States 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.

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