Afghanistan and Russia are set to co-chair proposed future talks in Moscow on Afghanistan’s peace, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) said on Tuesday.
Representatives from the two countries are drawing up a schedule for such talks, that are aimed at promoting political support for intra-Afghan dialogue, said Nasir Andisha, Acting Deputy Foreign Minister for Management and Resources.
“Delegations from Afghanistan, the Russian Federation, the Central Asian countries and Afghanistan’s partners are working on a timeline and agenda for the meeting. We will determine the time based on a consensus,” Andisha said.
This comes after government announced on Monday that following telephonic discussions between President Ashraf Ghani and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov the September 4 talks had been postponed.
Last week, the Taliban announced it would attend the Moscow talks, but both the US and Afghanistan turned down the invitation – citing any such discussions should be Afghan-led.
When asked about Afghan government’s opposition to the original plan, Andisha said: “It is not about who talks with the Taliban and how we react to it. The point is whether we can accept the fact that the Taliban attends (the talks) as a (single) party at a multilateral discussion where independent countries are attending?”
Officials from Afghanistan’s High Peace Council (HPC) said the Afghan government objected to the Moscow talks because the conference had been scheduled without their permission and without it being Afghan-led.
“All countries which have met with the Taliban have asked for Afghan government’s permission but the Russian’s case was no doubt different,” said HPC spokesman Sayed Ehsan Tahiri.
Political analysts said it was the first time that Taliban had shown willingness to attend such talks. They said the delay now however in the Russia talks was not in support of the Afghan peace process.
“The better way would have been for the Afghan government to have attended the meeting. The delay in this event is not in favor of peace,” said Nazar Mohammad Mutmaen, a Kabul-based political affairs analyst.
Previously meetings on Afghan peace were held in Moscow, Indonesia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan, but a former Taliban official said none of these meetings proved beneficial to break the deadlock around the peace process in the war-ravaged country.
“It is crystal clear that one-sided meetings will not succeed,” said Sayed Akbar Agha, a former Taliban commander.
Following Lavrov and Ghani’s discussion on Monday, the Presidential Palace (ARG) said in a statement that although Afghanistan strongly values the efforts by its regional and international partners towards restoring peace in the country, the Afghan government believes that any efforts for peace must be carried out in complete cooperation and harmony with the Afghan government and the Afghan people.
Lavrov meanwhile assured Ghani during their conversation that Russia was also in support of an Afghan-owned peace process and that Moscow was prepared to cooperate with the Afghan government regarding peace.