Moscow talks begin on Afghan peace building, Taliban Movement takes part for first time

Delegations of the Taliban, Afghan government, US and Pakistan, among other countries, are meeting in Moscow today (November 9) for the second round of talks on Afghanistan.

“We especially welcome the delegation of the High Peace Council of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in his opening speech. “Their participation in today’s event is aimed to make an important contribution and a conducive environment, to promote direct dialogue between the government, the Taliban and wider representatives of socio- and political  […] of the country.”

Together at this table regional partners, and friends of Afghanistan and to provide comprehensive facilitation in launching constructive intra-Afghan dialogue, he went on to say. “It is clear that on the way to this goal we need to overcome many hurdles, including accumulated mistrust and grievances.”

“We believe all responsible politicians will not be guided by their personal group preferences but the interest of the Afghan nation,” he said.

“We are deeply sympathetic with the Afghan nation due to the hardships. We are committed to do everything possible, to help Afghanistan open a new page in its history. All our countries are coming up against the international threat of terrorism. One of their goals is Afghanistan. [inaudible] represented by ISIL, without support of external sponsors undertaken attempts to turn Afghanistan into a stronghold of international terrorism.”

The minister went on to say: “To help Afghanistan eradicate the terrorist threat is the task of all our countries, and international structures active in the region. Russia is promoting to preserve an indivisible Afghanistan where everyone will be living happily and peacefully, all multiple ethnic groups.

“There is no doubt that this approach is shared by all participants. No one should be thinking in the categories of geopolitical gains fraught with yet again Afghanistan becoming a ‘rivalry’ field between foreign players with terrible ramifications for Afghans and their neighbours.”

The meeting will be the second in this format. Unlike the previous round, it will be co-chaired by both Russia and Afghanistan. As was the case with the first meeting, invitations were sent to 12 countries, the US included. The leadership of the Taliban’s political office in Doha was also invited to take part in the meeting.

The aim of the meeting is to help narrow the gaps in the approaches taken by the Afghan government and the Taliban to launching a direct intra-Afghan dialogue. The Foreign Ministry plans to issue a statement on the outcome.

This is the first time a Taliban delegation from its political office in Doha, Qatar, will be participating in an event like this.

Russia’s foreign ministry has said that deputy foreign ministers and related special representatives from Afghanistan, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and the United States have been invited to the second round of the Moscow format consultations on Afghanistan.

Related: Afghan officials, Taliban to meet in Russia Saturday

Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani has sent a delegation of the Afghanistan High Peace Council. A representative from the US Embassy in Moscow will attend, but only as an observer, State Department deputy spokesman Robert Palladino said this week.

The meeting will be opened by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at 10:30am Moscow time (12:30pm).

A Taliban statement described the gathering as a forum to lay out its demands for a peace process, including its objections to the presence of US and other foreign military forces in the country.

Related: Taliban confirms delegation to attend Moscow peace talks

The Russian foreign ministry said that it reaffirms its position “on the lack of alternative to a political settlement in Afghanistan and the need for active coordinated efforts by Afghanistan’s neighbouring countries and regional partners in this arena”.

The United States’ Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad will also be travelling to Afghanistan, Pakistan, the UAE and Qatar between November 8 and November 20.

According to a US State Department handout, his goal is to “advance the goal of an intra-Afghan dialogue and negotiations that include the Taliban and lead to sustainable peace”.

This is a developing story…