A Taliban delegation on Friday attended a diplomatic conference in Russian Federation for the first time, in a move that underscored Moscow's keenness to play a role in the Afghan peace process, but the Kabul government sent no official representative.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said that "we reaffirm our position on the lack of alternative to a political settlement in Afghanistan and the need for active coordinated efforts by Afghanistan's neighboring countries and regional partners".
Taliban representatives have reaffirmed their group's position that they will not hold directtalks with Afghanistan's Western-backed government, as they attended Russian-hosted worldwide talks aimed at bringing an end to the country's long-running conflict.
"We will not tolerate a single U.S. soldier in Afghanistan", said the head of the Taliban delegation at the worldwide meeting on Afghanistan in Moscow, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, adding that the insurgent group's "main goal" is to "put an end" to the 17-year-long "invasion" led by the USA and its allies.
Marking a significant shift in USA policy long sought by the terrorist group, the Trump administration has engaged in direct negotiations with the Taliban to end the war.
Russian Federation has hosted talks with Taliban delegates and members of Afghanistan's high peace council, as the Kremlin seeks a role as peace broker between Islamist rebels and the US-backed government in Kabul.
She added: "We came here for a political solution".
Analysts see the Modi government's decision as a significant marker in the Afghan dialogue process, given that India has in the past declined to participate in the Moscow format with the Taliban unless the Afghan government participated. Kabul, for its part, sent a 4-member delegation of its High Peace Council (HPC), which has been tasked with the reconciliation process. The U.S. Embassy in Moscow has sent a diplomat to observe the discussions.
"Russia supports the preservation of a united and indivisible Afghanistan in which all ethnic groups populating the country could live peacefully and happily", Lavrov said at the meeting, according to Russia's state-run news agency TASS.
USA officials have held two meetings with the Qatar-based Taliban negotiators since July. It is understood that Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani had during his visit to Delhi later in September, pitched for India to be more flexible on the issue of joining talks that included the Taliban.
"We confirmed to them [Taliban representatives] that we are ready to go on negotiations without conditions".
The Taliban said they would continue direct negotiations with Washington, which have been spearheaded by the USA diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad.
The Taliban have so far rejected Ghani's offer, insisting on direct talks with the U.S.
"We met with the American side at the negotiating table and asked them to leave Afghanistan".
Highlighting importance of the APAPPS for furthering bilateral relations, the two sides agreed to utilise the forum to deepen engagement, communication and understanding for early return and resettlement of Afghan refugees and to promote cooperation under various working groups of the framework. Even as the talks began, officials in Afghanistan said a Taliban attack had killed 10 soldiers.
"Considering our main demand is the withdrawal of foreign forces, we will discuss a peaceful resolution with the Americans".
Russia's re-emergence in Afghan affairs in part reflects a broader strategy to bolster its appearance as a power-broker on the world stage.
India has not participated in the multilateral meeting which involves the Taliban in the past, reported the daily. The conflict in Afghanistan has also been caught up in a probable power struggle between U.S. and Russian Federation.
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