ISLAMABAD/KABUL: The Afghan Taliban said Tuesday it will attend Russia-led talks aimed at ending the conflict in Afghanistan.
“A letter of invitation was sent and subsequently accepted by the Political Office of the Islamic Emirate ." Referencing the title of Islamic Emirate used by the group during its 1996 — 2001 rule of Afghanistan. The Taliban said in a statement emailed to media.
“This conference is not about negotiation with any particular side, rather it is a conference about holding comprehensive discussions on finding a peaceful solution to the Afghan quandary and ending the American occupation,” adds the statement.
The Taliban wants the complete withdrawal of foreign troops in Afghanistan as a condition for peace talks.
Earlier a Taliban spokesman told Arab News that the movement will share its views about a peaceful solution to the conflict in Afghanistan.
“These are not negotiations and everyone will explain their opinion about the solution to the Afghan problem and the delegation of the political office will explain the Emirate position to the participants,” the spokesmen said.
Russia denies backing the Taliban and has defended its contact with the armed group.
It invited Afghanistan, India, Iran, China, Pakistan, the US and others to participate in the Friday meeting, according to TASS news agency.
It started the Moscow-format consultations last year to push for a solution to the Afghan war, although it is accused by the US of supporting the Taliban.
A September meeting was postponed after Kabul refused to attend, saying all meetings about Afghanistan should be Afghan-led.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said last month the main objective of the Moscow meeting is to “ensure the safety of Russian nationals in Afghanistan and contribute to the national reconciliation process.”
Neither the US nor Afghanistan country is sending a government or diplomatic delegation to this meeting.
However, a Pakistan official told Arab News that Russia has invited the American Special Representative on Reconciliation in Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, who is now leading the US talks with the Taliban.
An Afghan foreign ministry spokesman, Sibghat Ahmadi, said no diplomatic or government delegation will attend the meeting because of a lack of agreement with Moscow.
“We have not reached to an agreement about the circumstance of the meeting. A group (Taliban) has been invited and we will not attend the meeting,” he told Arab News.
A delegation of from the government-appointed High Peace Council will instead participate in the meeting, which has been delayed on several occasions.
HPC spokesman, Sayed Ihsan Tahiri, said: “We hope the conference will be another strong step toward further strengthening the regional and international consensus on Afghan-led and own peace process.”
Najib Mahmoud, a political science professor at Kabul University, said other countries were gaining the upper hand in the peace process.
“The Afghan government is not attending because it does not want to harm its relations with America, but it sends a delegation from the High Peace Council in order to know and find out what will be discussed,” he told Arab News.